Tucson's Taz takes aim against world's best shot gunners - Tucson News Now

Tucson's Taz takes aim against world's best shot gunners

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Tucson, AZ -

The moment couldn't be any bigger for a local Tucson product looking to make a name for himself in a sport that offers little to no recognition in the everyday sport's landscape of the Grand Canyon state.   But with a cartoonish-like moniker such as ‘Taz', you don't expect the norm.

Mountain View High School product Luis "Taz" Gloria will be among 24 Americans competing at The 2014 International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup event that kicks off Thursday right here at the Tucson Trap and Skeet Club.

The opportunity to compete for Team USA at any international event is special.  Put that event in your hometown, on the range you train on, and the excitement level is off the charts. Such is the case for Gloria, who will no doubt be Tucson's favorite athlete April 13-14 when he competes in Men's Skeet.  Given that he's only competed in one previous World Cup, good results might not be expected.  But this kid beat the sport's best in two-time Olympic gold medalist Vincent Hancock as well as 2012 Olympian Frank Thompson, just to qualify for the chance.

"It's huge," said Gloria of the opportunity to compete on his home range. "Lots of people are enthused about it. It's beyond anything I could have imagined and I still go out to the range and they'll talk to me about it and they're excited. I've gotten tons of moral support from those people and it's a phenomenal thing to have."

Two weeks ago in Kerrville, Texas, the Mountain View High School student qualified to represent the United States of America in not only the Junior World Championships to be held in Suhl Germany, but  in the World Championships in Granada, Spain as well. 

Last season, Taz enjoyed a banner year competing and medaling in almost every national match held in the USA and at the Junior World Championships held in Lima, Peru where he won a Bronze medal in the team event. 

Taz started shooting almost before he could keep both ends of the gun off the ground at the same time.  At age 9, he started competing with a shotgun in The Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and during his first year, he made it to the National SCTP Championships. In 2008, Taz qualified to compete at the National Junior Olympic Championships for the first time. While it may have taken him a couple of years to win his first medal at Nationals, since then he has almost had a spot reserved for him on the podium.

All this has not come without sacrifice.  His career blossomed at the same time of his senior year of high school, but because of the time he had to take off for competitions, he was not able to finish all his classes, so he is currently taking on-line courses to get his diploma. Gloria plans to attend Lindenwood University in the fall.  The school is known throughout the shotgun community as one of the premier programs in the nation and just this past weekend earned their 11th straight National Collegiate Title.

He works at Cracker Barrel part time and spends the rest of his time training to beat the world's best shotgun shooters. But with goal of shooting in Rio de Janerio in 2016, Taz just keeps on moving like that Saturday morning cartoon character that he is so aptly named after.

The World Cup comes to the Arizona for the second time in three years having first visited during the Olympic year of 2012. That event featured over 250 competitors then and organizers expect nearly that same amount this time around. The Tucson Trap & Skeet Club (TTSC) turned into a shooter's paradise at the first World Cup with five records broken or tied through the first three events. 

Home-field advantage was pivotal to the USA Shooting Team's success, garnering five medals overall, including three gold and two bronze.  Seven of the 23 U.S. athletes that shot in 2012 are back wearing the USA Shooting Team jacket for their upcoming world test after earning the opportunity following the 2013 Fall Selection Match, also at TTSC.  Headlining that group are 2012 World Cup gold medalists Kim Rhode (El Monte, Calif.) and Ryan Hadden (USAMU/Pendleton, Ore.) along with 2012 bronze medalists Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas) and Josh Richmond (USAMU/Hillsgrove, Pa.).  Rhode led a trio of Americans into the finals that day in 2012, shooting a perfect world-record score of 75/75 during qualifying.  Drozd would settle for bronze after a shoot-out with Italy's Diana Bacosi. Hadden shot a 123/125 in qualifying and then shot a perfect 25/25 in the final to secure victory. Richmond moved from a sixth-place qualifying score to third overall after hitting 50 straight targets. That double-trap event saw the emergence of eventual 2012 Olympic gold medalist Peter Russell Wilson of Great Britain, who shot a world-record score on his way to the win.

This World Cup means a lot to Tucson and The United States shooting team given that, for many years shotgun world cup competitions were not held in the United States due to a lack of a world-class range.

In 2010, The Tucson Trap and Skeet Club started construction on its five Olympic Bunker Traps to help fill this need.  The construction was long, difficult and expensive, but the results were worth it. Tucson has been rated as one of the top 10 Olympic style clubs in the world.

Tucson is uniquely qualified to host events of this kind.

First, the club is one of only three ranges in the US with a large enough facility to handle the amount of competitors that come to these events. Second, the surrounding area includes a lot of hotels and resorts, which will be needed given that over 1000 people will be coming in for this match. Third, Tucson has an International Airport to bring the athletes, coaches, trainers and spectators into our fair city.

During the 2012 World Cup, many of the athletes visited Tucson's and Southern Arizona's attractions. Old Tucson, The Desert Museum, Kartchner Caverns and Tombstone were just a few of the places that were visited by these athlete/tourists. 

Competitions will begin daily at 9:00 am and admission is free.

2014 World Cup USA Tucson Event Schedule

Thursday, April 10            Women's Trap Qualifying + Final

                                                Men's Trap Qualifying

Friday, April 11                  Men's Trap Qualifying + Final

Sunday, April 13                Men's Double Trap Qualifying + Final

                                                Women's Skeet Qualifying + Final

                                                Men's Skeet Qualifying

Monday, April 14              Men's Skeet Qualifying + Final

USA Shooting Team Participants

Trap

Brian Burrows (Fallbrook, Calif.)
Ryan Hadden (USAMU/Pendleton, Ore.)
Seth Inman (USAMU/Independence, Mo.)
*James Reed (Azle, Texas
*Jake Wallace (Castiac, Calif.)
*Kayle Browning (Wooster, Ark.)
Ashley Carroll (Solvang, Calif.)
*Corey Cogdell (Eagle River, Alaska
Rachael Heiden (Clinton, Mich.)
Susan Sledge (El Cajon, Calif.)

Skeet

Luis "Taz" Gloria (Tucson, Ariz.)
Dustin Perry (Lovelady, Texas)
*Hayden Stewart (USAMU/Columbia, Tenn.)
*Frank Thompson (Alliance, Neb.)
Mark Weeks (USAMU/Clinton Township, Mich.)
Brandy Drozd (Bryan, Texas)
Haley Dunn (Eddyville, Iowa)
*Amber English (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Kim Rhode (El Monte, Calif.)

Double Trap

Glenn Eller (USAMU/Houston, Texas)
*Derek Haldeman (USAMU/Sunbury, Ohio)
Jeff Holguin (USAMU/Yorba Linda, Calif.)
Josh Richmond (USAMU/Hillsgrove, Pa.)
*Ian Rupert (Muncy, Pa.)

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