Halley Donati admitted that she is not a “super sporty person.”
Donati, a 2020 Winters Mill grad, found her true passion in a different form of competition — trap and skeet shooting — and she will continue to pursue that passion at Washington College this fall.
Donati has been trap and skeet shooting since she was 9 or 10 years old. She initially competed in archery for a brief period after she joined a 4-H club but quickly learned of other disciplines that piqued her interest. She had to take a hunter’s safety course that required her to pass two written tests, as well as learn wildlife identification and orienteering.
From there, she learned how to operate a shotgun and stopped archery altogether.
“The thing I like the most is competing with a lot of different people of different ages and place," Donati said. “[I like] being able to talk to them and improve my skills when shooting with others.”
Donati is a member of the Susquehanna Dusters Youth Shotgun Shooting Team as well as the Carroll County 4-H Hot Shots Club.
Trap shooters point at targets moving away, and fire five shots from each of the five positions for a total of 25 shots per round. The shooter on the first station fires the first shot and is followed by each of the shooters on the other stations.
After everyone has fired their five shots, all shooters move to the next station.
Two target machines, 40 meters apart, launch clay targets across a semi-circular array of shooting positions at constant trajectories and velocity for skeet shooting.
Local shooting ranges closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, which affected Donati’s practice schedule. She used to practice multiple times per week but said she hasn’t been able to shoot for the past two to three months. Instead, she has tried to find other ways to build her stamina.
“Right now, since our practices with the Susquehanna Dusters is limited, like the number of people that can be there, I can only practice once a week,” Donati said “I practice on Tuesdays, and then I’m going to start going to Loch Raven [Loch Raven Skeet & Trap Center] again on Sundays.”
Donati’s 4-H instructor, Mark McThenia, has been working with Donati since she first joined the club. He said Donati is dedicated to the sport and her work ethic makes his job worth it.
“She was one of those kids where that was her focus, shooting sports,” McThenia said. “She never quit, she just kept on hammering them and I was glad she ended up down at Washington on their shooting team … I enjoy teaching the kids, especially ones like her that really have an interest in it.
“I get them to the point where they can outshoot me. It’s humiliating at times, but I like it.”
Washington College elevated its intercollegiate trap and skeet team to full varsity status at the start of the 2018-19 school year, making it the school’s 18th varsity sport.
“When I was looking for colleges, one of my things was if I wanted to do trap and skeet in college, it had to be a varsity team,” Donati said. “If I were to go to a school where it’s a club, they don’t pay for travel expenses or ammo or anything whereas if I’m going to Washington, they’re a team."
“They pay for the ammo, travel, expenses, everything … I save a lot of money with that.”
Intercollegiate trap and skeet’s championships are governed by the Association of College Unions — International (ACUI), which sponsors annual conference championships and the ACUI Collegiate Clay Target Championships, according to a Washington College press release.
Donati knows she’s competing in a highly male-dominated sport. According to a National Shooting Sports Foundation report from 2014 that analyzed the demographic makeup of shooters, 31.7 percent of that group were males who went target shooting that year, while 12.6 percent were females who participated in target shooting. Being the outlier, however, doesn’t bother her.
“When I shoot with the guys, they’re not usually expecting me to be as good or as trained as they are,” Donati said. “A lot of them are really helpful and they’ll try to coach me, but sometimes I’ll shoot better than them. They’ll be shocked, but they’re happy for me because they want kids to come out, practice and shoot since there’s not that many doing it.”
Washington College boasted three women on its trap and skeet roster last season — sophomore Sammy DiLorento, freshman Brianna Pierce and freshman Emma Smith, a Francis Scott Key grad. Donati intends to be the fourth.
Donati and her Susquehanna Dusters teammates plan to attend the 2020 Scholastic Clay Target Program National Championships at the Cardinal Shooting Center and Campground in Marengo, Ohio from July 11-18.