At the US National Steel Championship in late March, Tori Nonaka took the title of High Lady in the Rimfire Division, only days after celebrating her “Sweet 16th” birthday. Just weeks earlier, GLOCK, Inc., had announced that Tori would be joining World Champions Dave Sevigny and Randi Rogers as the third competing member of Team GLOCK. For many people, 2011 has been the first they have heard the name Tori Nonaka, but for Tori herself, shooting has been a major part of her life for the past 13 years.
“I vaguely remember growing up and going to the range when I was about five,” Tori said. “I can remember standing on a bucket, Dad helping me shoot the gun, and him always telling me what a good job I was doing when I hit the target.”
Tori hails from Woodbridge, Va., where she is a high school sophomore living with her parents and four siblings. Her father, Aaron, has always had a passion for shooting, which led him to begin teaching all of his children to shoot and be responsible when handling firearms.
“When Tori was 12 and 13 we attended training classes at the US Shooting Academy,” Aaron said. “During these classes she out-shot and out-drilled active members of the military and law enforcement. That was when we realized Tori had a gift. Now every time we compete against each other I give it my best, but she always wins. Honestly, I hope I never beat her again.”
Tori credits shooters Dave Sevigny and Todd Jarrett as being inspirations to her career. She feels that both shooters have a lot of expertise when it comes to the sport and aspires to be as knowledgeable some day. She believes that both practice and preparation are the two most important components of success for a shooter.
“When I have a match, I practice everyday for several weeks” she said. “I make sure I keep my confidence level high and then a day before the match, I scout the stages and memorize them. This allows me to get a game plan down and gets me mentally prepared.”
Speaking with Tori, I immediately realized that she is mature beyond her years – yet, she shares the same interests as most 16-year olds. She just obtained her learner’s permit, likes participating in sports, listening to music and baking cakes with her younger sister. She also loves being in the outdoors and is an avid hunter; her true passion, however, remains in shooting.
“I remember going to the US Shooting Academy when I was 12,” she said. “I got to travel on an airplane and then shoot guns the entire weekend. It was one of my first major trips and when I got back I competed in a local match. From that day forward I didn’t think about doing anything else with my life.”
While her popularity is on the rise, Tori remains humble and gracious for all of the support that she has received over the years. At a bowling pin shoot in April that was held by one of her sponsors, Tori cheerfully greeted fans and politely answered questions, providing advice to beginner shooters. When asked for an autograph, she was both flattered and thrilled to oblige.
“It is definitely weird being asked for an autograph” she said. “Sometimes I actually ask if they are joking.”
For some, being a teenage female in a once traditional male sport could be intimidating, but this is not the case for Tori. “I believe that my age provides many advantages. By starting so young, I have the opportunity to gain a lot of match experience now, years before I enter my prime. The shooting community is very supportive in getting both juniors and females into the sport, which gives me a double advantage. Becoming a member of Team GLOCK has only added to that.”
Although the relationship between Nonaka and GLOCK is still very young, it has already proven to be successful. A month after the US Steel Shoot Nationals, Nonaka took home her first major title as a member of Team GLOCK, winning the USPSA Area 6 Ladies Production division in Florida. With many more competitions on the horizon, including the IPSC World Shoot XVI in Rhodes, Greece, in October, Nonaka, along with the purple GLOCK that has become her signature, is sure to gain shooting stardom.
“I’m excited for the journey ahead and the opportunity to be able to see the world while doing what I love,” said Nonaka.~Jennifer Yoder