Daniel Rich ’08 is vying for a position on the USA Shooting Team for the Paris Olympics in the summer of 2024.
Rich, an Air Force major who is team captain of that service’s shooting team, practices his craft in the sometimes-baffling sport of Olympic Trap. The “trap machine” throws clay targets into the air out and away from the shooter in a 90-degree arc at speeds between 65 and 80 miles per hour. Targets are presented in a random sequence. There are six stations on an Olympic Trap field, five of which are shooting stations, with one non-firing station worked into the sequence. Six shooters make up a “squad,” and the shooters rotate one station to the right after each shot. A total of 250 targets are fired upon for each competitor in a match, with 25 per round.
“The targets are fast and unpredictable,” Rich says. “It requires great mental and visual acuity. In order to be successful, the athlete must keep control of their mind, focusing only on the shot at hand, not the one before, or ones to come.”
Rich trains at the historic San Antonio Gun Club, nestled near Olmos Basin Park on Contour Drive. Opened in 1930, it is the oldest active gun club in the nation. The San Antonio Gun Club is also the training site for Trinity University’s trap and skeet team, coached by retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Van Boerner. Coach Boerner also teaches a physical education class at Trinity, tutoring students each semester in the fine art of shotgun shooting.
The gun club is a special place for Rich, not only for his training regimen but also because it’s the site where he met his future wife, the former McKinley White ’07, M’08, when both were members of the trap and skeet team. She also played on Trinity’s women’s soccer team. McKinley went on to become the International School of the Americas Teacher of the Year. She is an author about parenting skills and director of operations for Positive Parenting Solutions.
They have three sons, Britton (age 11), Beckett (age 9), and Boone (age 5). Their two oldest sons have taken up target shooting, and all three play baseball.
Rich was elected captain of Trinity’s trap and skeet team and competed in four American College Unions International (ACUI) Championships, the governing body for collegiate trap and skeet events. The Tigers came away in 2008 with an ACUI bronze medal—Rich’s last semester as a Trinitonian.
“Daniel was a natural leader,” Boerner says, “and it didn’t take long to recognize his ability to inspire, to motivate, and to bring out the best in his teammates. He was a blessing to me as team captain, and a dear friend to this day.”
While attending Trinity, Rich was cross-enrolled at the University of Texas at San Antonio in the Air Force ROTC program. After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics and astronomy from Trinity in 2008 (with a minor in economics), he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force.
A native of Johns Creek, Georgia, Rich chose to attend Trinity because of its small-school environment and the University’s vaunted trap and skeet team. He remembers reading about former Trinity world champions John Shima ’81 and Todd Bender ’82, led by the late Col. Tom Hanzel, who guided the University to five national collegiate titles and is a posthumous member of the Trinity Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I wanted a great school that was small and that would provide the opportunity to continue competing in clay target shooting,” says Rich, who won his first target shooting medal at the age of 9. “I met my wife and closest friends at Trinity. I was challenged for four years and taught different ways to think. I loved Trinity because the professors were available. You can knock on their doors and get advice with classes.”
He stayed busy between classes, trap and skeet, and Air Force ROTC, but was also a member of Trinity’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, The Well, and Intervarsity ministries. Rich says he “definitely learned time management at Trinity!”
Rich later earned a master’s degree in industrial engineering in 2013 at New Mexico State University and a graduate degree in 2021 in military operational art and science at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB Alabama.
The 14-year Air Force veteran is currently headquartered at Kelly Field, adjacent to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, where he serves as an analyst in a number of areas, including operations research, process improvement, weapons systems, personnel, finance, and war games, to name a few. Rich started out as a scientist, working with lasers, radiation, and non-lethal weapons.
“It was always a dream for me to be in the military,” Rich says. “Both of my grandfathers were in the service, and, from hearing their stories, I wanted to follow in their footsteps.”
Rich has held posts in Hawaii and the Pentagon—among other sites—as well as Afghanistan where he was chief of personnel for the NATO Training Mission. While there, he also served as a convoy commander and led personal security teams for military chaplains.
Rich is currently a member of the Air Force World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). This special program permits elite athletes to develop their skills in preparation for the Olympics and other world-class events. Thus, his constant training at the San Antonio Gun Club.
Only 10 athletes from the entire Air Force were selected from a variety of Olympic sports for this program to prep for the 2024 Games.
“Representing the Air Force on the national and international stage is a big responsibility and one I am grateful for,” Rich says. “I am proud to be a part of this program and to be a member of the Air Force Shooting Team.”
Rich has accumulated a number of medals to his credit over the years. He is a five-time top Air Force shooter at the USA Shooting National Matches, a six-time National Medalist, a one-time World Championship medalist, and a former Georgia state champion. In 2021, Rich won the gold medal at the prestigious Selwood Cup in Alabama and recently won the “Old West Shootout” at the 2022 Arizona State Helice Championship.
USA Shooting has not yet announced where the qualifying events for the Olympics will be held in the fall of 2023 and the spring of 2024. Likely sites will be between Tucson, Arizona; Hillsdale, Michigan; and Palm Beach, Florida.
“I feel pretty hopeful about the Olympics,” Rich says. “I know the areas I need to work on. I am grateful to the Air Force for this opportunity and to be an example for student-athletes and fellow service members.”
Rich may be reached at his email, firstname.lastname@example.org.