---- — By Marion Valanoski
For The Daily Item
ELYSBURG -- It's often been said that "first impressions are lasting" so you can't begin to imagine what was going through the ranks last Saturday when after almost a two-year hiatus of competition, Kelly Doll was perfect in the first event of the Colonial Classic at the Valley Gun and Country Club prior to the start of the Pennsylvania State Shoot.
Not that Doll needed any introduction as she is already recognized as one of the top women's trap shooters in the country, but the former Hanover resident -- now residing in Australia -- had not competed since 2011 when she shot in the Pennsylvania State Meet before shoulder problems and the birth of her second child, Grace, last year forced her to the sidelines.
Doll tested her skills last Friday at the local gun Club in New Oxford and shot at 50 targets. The only practice in over two years before heading to Elysburg and this year's 122nd Pennsylvania State Shoot and carrying with her a certain amount of apprehension.
Competing in the Kim Bateman Singles, Doll not only stunned herself but the field by breaking all 100 targets to finish in the top spot of the two-day event.
"A few people asked me about how I did," Doll said while rocking her one-year old in the shade at Knoebels Grove Park near the music band shell. "But when they checked the leaderboard on the screen and saw my score I'm sure it raised a few eyebrows. I came back Sunday and broke 96 targets but a two-day average of 98 is something I'm happy to take.
"The shoulder is alright and I'm experienced enough to know where to safely place the gun and avoid any injury."
Doll may not have won the overall event but much more was gained by her opening day Saturday performance than another trophy
that would be added to an already impressive collection of trap shooting hardware.
"My performance helped restore confidence in my ability and let me know I'm still capable of going up against the best and doing well," Doll said. "When I took my position on the line I was nervous and wondered if it was possible to break 25 targets and it turned out alright until it came down to the final 10 targets. I got a bit edgy and did not get all good breaks on them but they were breaks and that's all that counts.
"It let me know I can still do it and all the people who didn't know if I would be here knew it after checking the scores."
What's even more impressive is knowing that after officially moving to Australia in 2007 where she works with her husband for Infocomm, which is a non-profit trade association for the audio-video industry, she still manages to come back to the United States and spends at least five months in Pennsylvania, competing in both the Pennsylvania State Shoot and the Pennsylvania Grand, along with spending time with her parents.
"The PSSA puts on such a great event and I grew up shooting," Doll said. "I love coming back for the competition and the great friendships I've developed over the years."
Doll has been shooting since she was 12 years old and can include an Eastern Zone Championship amongst her honors said that the almost 24-hour flight from Australia to Pennsylvania is very demanding and not very enjoyable along with the cost of the flight itself, but fortunately she still meets all the demands and will continue to make the trek as long as she's able.
Mom provided five-year old Katie with a present as Saturday was her birthday and an inspiration for her 100-target performance and Doll can't wait until her daughter is strong enough to lift a gun and begin to learn how to shoot.
"I think she's just about ready to possibly shoot a BB gun," Doll said. "She wants to learn how to shoot and I encourage her and disciplined enough to handle the responsibility."
After perusing the names scheduled to compete this week, Doll knows it will be no easy task to bring home any titles but that does not mean she's going to lie down and be content to be just another competitor.
"I'm hoping Saturday was just the start of something good and I would love to win something here," Doll said. "There are too many outstanding women shooters not just in Pennsylvania but throughout the country and it's going to be hard just to capture a trophy, much less a title, but I'd like to be in contention.
"It's also about seeing the people and being around the shoot, which my parents said started when I was one week old so as long as my health is good and I can afford to make it back we will come to this shoot."
Doll is happy to expose her oldest child to the beauty of what America has to offer as well as the culture of her home in Australia and be aware of the many differences.
"We went to a deer farm here but back home we have kangaroos jumping in our back yard," Doll said.