Log in Subscribe

Gracie Hensley aims for the Olympics

By MARK MCGEE - mcmcgee@t-g.com
Posted 7/15/23

Dedication. Discipline. Desire. Devotion.

These four “Ds” sum up Gracie Hensley and her quest to someday be part of the U.S. Olympic skeet shooting team.

In June she finished at …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Gracie Hensley aims for the Olympics


Dedication. Discipline. Desire. Devotion.

These four “Ds” sum up Gracie Hensley and her quest to someday be part of the U.S. Olympic skeet shooting team.

In June she finished at the top of the competition in both the qualifying round and final at the U.S.A. Shooting National Junior Olympic Championships in June at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. She qualified for the U.S.A. Development Team and took home a vest designating her as a member of the U.S.A National Shooting Team and a gold medal. One day she wants to wear the gold in an Olympic competition.

In May she earned a bronze medal in the finals of the U.S.A. Shooting National Shotgun Championships, also held in Hillsdale. This competition was part 1 of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials to compete in Paris, France in 2024.

Most of her time is spent working to one day achieve that goal. She rises at 5 a.m. to work through a variety of training exercises and then heads to the gym for even more workouts. In the afternoons she can be found on the skeet field.

She dribbles a basketball to develop her hand-eye coordination. She juggles and goes through vision therapy. She uses items like a Vector Ball to refine her hand-eye coordination.

She travels to Alabama to work with her personal trainer Todd Graves a four-time Olympian and a bronze medal winner in the Olympics in 2000.

“The shooting is the easy part,” Gracie said. “All of the off-the-field training is the hard part.”

Started on a whim

At The Webb School students are required to be in clubs and skeet shooting caught her eye. She knew there weren’t many schools offering the opportunity and nothing else interested her.

“I thought this looks kind of cool so I guess I will try it,” Gracie said. “I had no idea what I was getting into. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing.

Two of her friends, Miles Simons and Jonathan Savage, also played a part in her selection of the sport that would soon become her obsession.

“They said we need a third person so why don’t you do it?” Gracie recalled. “They thought I had potential for it. That’s kind of the way it started.”

Gracie had tried basketball, softball, and soccer, but in her own words she doesn’t classify herself as “being athletic”.

She first fired a shotgun on the skeet field at the age of 14. Prior to that, her only exposure to shooting had been a couple of times with a pistol.

When she fired her first 12-gauge shotgun blast on a skeet field she hit her first target. It was love at her first shot.

“I was like this is great,” Gracie said. “I am an adrenalin junkie. I love it.

“I got that adrenalin rush that I am always looking for. I was like I am going to do this. This is what I like.”

Looking for challenges

Gracie classified herself as “decent” after competing in American skeet shooting for a year. But Gracie likes being challenged, and she was looking for more. She decided to switch to International skeet shooting which is more challenging for several reasons. An added plus is International skeet shooting is what the Shotgun Division of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Team competes in. Her next stop will be the U.S. Army after she earns a high school diploma.

“International looked harder so I decided to try it,” Gracie said. “In International skeet when you call ‘pull’ there is going to be a zero to three seconds delay. If is longer than three seconds, it is called a no target and you have to reset. In American skeet when you call ‘pull’ you know the target is going to fly immediately.

“In International skeet the target travels 55 to 60 miles per hour. In American skeet the target travels around 45 miles per hour. In American skeet you can start with your gun already mounted. In International the gun has to be at your hip.”

A different approach

Gracie admits she isn’t the typical International skeet shooter in terms of her personality. She is focused, but not intensely so.

“You would think I would be intense because a lot of International skeet shooters are very stoic and very focused looking when they shoot,” Gracie said. “But anybody who knows me wouldn’t say that I’m like that. I like dancing on the field.

 I don’t get nervous. I stay relaxed.”

She may not be intense in competition but her attitude in preparation is completely focused.

Her next stop is a Junior Olympic qualifier in Tucson, Arizona in March where she would like to duplicate her performance in Michigan. There is no doubt she will do everything she can to be ready. At 17 she often has to turn her back on being with her friends.

“I don’t get to go out much,” Gracie said. “I want it so bad. It’s not hard for me to say, ‘Sorry guys I can’t go out’. I know I have to get up get my work done and keep going.”

She has no problems taking the less-traveled road on the way to earning her ultimate prize.

“I never give half energy to anything,” Gracie said. “If I am going to do something I am going to give all that I’ve got. I do have the mentality that I am going to be the best at this.”