Cathryn “Cat” Papasodora tagged along with her dad to the shooting range twice in sixth grade. She didn’t pick up a gun again until the start of the 2011 riflery season.
Less than three months later, the Eagle River freshman ended the season as the fifth best shooter in the Cook Inlet Conference after firing an aggregate score of 383 at the CIC riflery championships at West Anchorage High on Dec. 3.
Papasodora’s meteoric rise as one of the conference’s top marksman is almost unheard of from a freshman in a sport that’s typically dominated by upperclassmen, Eagle River assistant coach Scott Henderson said. And, Henderson said, Papasodora will likely be the conference’s top shooter next season.
Her teammates think so, too.
“Cat’s gonna be the person to beat in the district next year,” senior Chris Pascale said.
Eagle River head coach Jeff Parker noticed Papasodora’s talent early in the season. After the team’s first two matches, Parker said she was sure to be one of the best in the sport in the coming years.
Pasclae, a four-year shooter, said most newbies think riflery will be easy. But, he said, they quickly learn how difficult the sport is.
Papasodora picked up on that fact and has worked hard since the beginning of the season, Pascale said.
“She saw that and took it as personal challenge to beat everybody else,” he said.
The freshman led Eagle River’s A team — comprised of seniors Brandon Henderson and Pascale, junior Brenden Lyon and Papasodora — at the conference championships.
Papasodora’s focus is what sets her apart from other shooters, Pascale said.
“I have the mentality for it,” Papasodora said. “I’ve very focused. I’m more calm and a little bit reserved sometimes.”
Her tiny 5-foot, 2-inch frame is a physical attribute that helps Papasodora’s shooting, especially in the offhand position. When standing, Papasodora said she rests her elbow on her hip to steady herself — something taller shooters can’t do.
“I’m proportional for it,” she said. “I’ve been described as being like a tripod when I’m in offhand.”
Papasodora said enjoying riflery is the biggest key to her success.
“I just have fun with it. I don’t concentrate all that much on just scores,” she said. “I actually shoot better when I have fun.”
While the rest of the CIC will have their eyes on Papasodora next season, Eagle River will depend on her, as the Wolves will have an underclassmen-heavy team. Eagle River is also losing its senior captains Brandon Henderson and Pascale.
Papasodora said she’s ready to take on a leadership role, and, despite being a freshman, offers pointers to teammates.
“My team is already looking up to me,” she said. “I don’t act like their superior because I’m not. I’m their equal. They respond to that better.”
Papasodora’s top score this year was a 295 — one away from the conference record — which she fired in practice. Next season, she said she’s hoping to shoot in the high 280’s or 290 during competitions.
Papasodora made her talent known to the CIC when she won East’s T-Bird Invitational on Nov. 15. Papasodora scored 560 out of a possible 600.
Her victory came as a complete shock, Papasodora said, because she didn’t look at her scores until the match was over.
“I actually went in thinking I’d shoot lower,” she said.
Papasodora said she treated the competition like she was in the ERHS cafeteria honing her skills after school.
“I went in and shot like it was practice,” she said.
Winning the T-Bird Invite gave Papasodora a stronger belief in her abilities.
“It boosted me up and my confidence,” she said.
While taking first at such a large match has given Papasodora more self-assurance for the future, she said, the victory hasn’t gone to her head.
“I’m not overly confident,” Papasodora said. “But I’m not to the point where I’m doubting myself every competition.”
Contact Mike Nesper at 694-2727 or [email protected]