Luis Pineda Gloria, a 2013 Mountain View High School graduate, always had a passion for trap and skeet shooting, but it wasn’t until he shot 100 straight at a competition that the 18-year-old knew he had what it took to pursue his dream of going to the Olympics.
“I walked off the field and people were patting me on the back and congratulating me,” said Luis. “I didn’t realize until a little later how good I had done. It was just one of those moments that it all just clicked. I just started to shoot really good after that.”
For Luis, who is also known as “Taz” to friends and family, began his journey to competition when he was 6 years old. Closely resembling the character Ralphie, from “A Christmas Story”, Luis consistently asked his parents for a year to buy him a B.B. gun. It wasn’t until age six that Luis’ wish came true as that Christmas his small hands tore open the Christmas wrapping paper and revealed a new B.B. gun – a gift that would start a career of shooting for Luis.
Three years later, Luis became a part of the Pusch Ridge Riders 4H Club where he practiced shooting for two years. After that his grandfather, Vern Hayden, started the Tucson Trap and Skeet Youth Club, which he became heavily involved in.
The Tucson Trap and Skeet Club first opened in 1948 and has been at its current location, out on West Old Ajo Highway, since 1976. It is a private member owned club but is open to the public. The club is one of the largest shooting facilities in the country and hosted the World Cup competition in 2012 where 245 shooters out of 45 nations competed.
Because of his competitive drive and the coaching from his grandfather, Luis’ interest in shooting quickly grew. In 2005, his team won the state championship and then traveled to Ohio where he competed in his first national championship. At the time Luis was nine.
It wasn’t until 2007 and 2008 that Luis won the state championship for all three disciplines: sporting clays, trap and skeet. After that, he began to branch out to other programs, mainly local competitions, outside of Tucson Trap and Skeet in order to gain more recognition and experience. It didn’t take long for someone to suggest that Luis try shooting international skeet.
“After hearing that, I decided then that that was the path I wanted to take,” said Luis. “I wanted to make the Olympic team.”
On average, Luis shoots about 30,000 to 50,000 rounds per year - each round consisting of 25 shots. After deciding that he wanted to train for the Olympics, the intensity of his training increased as Luis began practicing nearly every day. In 2008, he won the state junior Olympics and that same year competed for the first time in the national junior Olympics. Luis re-qualified for the Olympics the next few years and by 2012 made it onto the national junior Olympic team. Even though winning is definitely a bonus to competing in the sport; Luis says one of the best parts of shooting is the people.
“I have friends all over the U.S. Generally it’s a tight knit family,” said Luis. “The people are great, it doesn’t matter where they are from. I’ve met people from all over the world. They are just phenomenal people even if you don’t know them they’ll go out of their way.”
Last week, from Aug. 15 to Aug. 18, Luis headed with a few others from the U.S. to the World Shotgun Championships in Lima, Peru. “Even though I didn’t win the championship I had an amazing time,” said Luis. Looking back over all his years of competition Luis gives credit to the man who pushed him each and everyday in practice – his grandfather.
“A lot goes to my grandpa. It’s taken me a really long time to get where I’m at and he’s helped me,” said Luis. “There’s times where you question if you want to keep going but at the same time you realize you’ve done so much already and just need to keep pushing. My desire and drive have been a big part of why I keep going.”
Now heading into college, Luis will finish taking some online courses and eventually head to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. on a shooting scholarship. There are only nine other colleges in the U.S. that have scholarships for shooting. The scholarship is not only based on a person’s skill in the sport, but also their youth activities and academics.
“They have a big shooting team and they’ve been asking me since seventh grade to go there,” said Luis, who said between then and receiving a scholarship, attending Lindenwood University was not a hard choice.
Luis is unsure of what degree he will pursue in college but is sure that his future will either include him competitively shooting or mentoring others in the sport.