Lofty aim

Wiley Button has sights set on Olympic team spot

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The next Olympian to come out of Routt County very well may be more comfortable with a 12-guage slung over his shoulder than with skis on his feet. Wiley Button's demeanor -- calm and collected, is everything one would expect of dead-eye shot capable of excelling in international shooting events.

Last weekend, the 16-year-old took a break from baling hay on his family's ranch near Clark to compete in the men's double trap event at the Shotgun Junior Olympics at Fort Carson, south of Colorado Springs.

The Junior Olympics uses the international double trap format, in which shooters fire a pair of shots at two clay disks thrown simultaneously. In three rounds of play, the shooter moves between five aligned shooting stations trying to hit 25 pairs of targets.

After Button's three rounds, he had hit 129 of 150 targets, moving him into a final shoot-off as one of the competition's top six finishers.

"It's tough with the shoot-off because they combine it with your score from the first three rounds, so you can go from first to sixth or fourth to first," Button said.

Button hit 44 of 50 targets in the finals, just three shots shy of Pennsylvania's Brian Maher. With his second-place finish, Button earned a spot on the 2006 Junior Olympic Shotgun Team.

"People say that doubles is harder, but I've always enjoyed it more," Button said about the unique sport with limited youth appeal. He could think of only one other junior shooter in the state who competes in international double trap, but that doesn't seem to bother him.

"A lot of people don't like to shoot, they say it's frustrating," Button said. "You just have to put in you dues and practice it."

Button's father taught him to shoot trap near their ranch, and after attending a hunter- safety class, he was hooked enough to start practicing with the Routt County 4-H shooting sports team.

"He was a good shooter to begin with," said Lynn Wilhelm, who has coached Button for the past six years. "If someone pushes him, he can turn it up a notch."

Wilhelm noticed the jump in Button's abilities after Button returned from a Junior Olympic training camp at the Fort Carson range.

Button may not need a push. He already seems focused on where he wants to go. Training locally at the Routt County Rifle Club and at the Fort Carson International Range, Button will be preparing for the Shotgun Fall Selection Match in Kerrville, Texas, during Labor Day weekend. That event will determine the U.S. Shotgun Team.

"Not that you can go very far, or make a living financially," Button said about his future in shooting. He was quick to point out that the U.S. Shotgun Team is competing in the World Shooting Championships in Zagreb, Croatia. "But it's always something to do, and it's always fun."

Button could have contemplated where his talents will take him, but he had to get his family's hay swather fixed before heading back up to the ranch.

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