South Georgia Youth Shooting coach Mike Simpson took 20 of his top athletes to Fort Benning recently for one of the top competitions in the county and the fellows who train in Hartsfield did just fine, thank you.
In the Scholastic Clay Target Program part, five SGYS competitors finished in the top six in the trap event and Will Hinton was second high overall in the combined skeet and trap scores.
And the Abraham Baldwin College team that Simpson coaches swept the collegiate competition.
The events were part of the Army Strong Experience 2012 held at Fort Benning.
The shooting championships part of the event drew top college and junior shooters in several events, including the SCTP Challenge and the Scholastic Steel Challenge Collegiate Championships.
The Army Strong Collegiate Shooting Championships is designed to connect the Army with and promote youth and college shooting sports.
The program started as a clinic last year, said U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit shotgun coach Dean Clark. In an effort to get more shooters involved, it was expanded to include competitions this year when it was held March 13-18.
In the Scholastic Clay Targets Program competition was an opportunity for the youngsters to see Olympic style shooting.
“A lot of the kids hadn’t shot Olympic style before,” Clark said. “It was a good experience for them.
“And it was a good chance for them to see us and for us to see them.”
Clark called the Army Strong competition “a tough event.”
“It’s a big challenge for a lot of them,” Clark said, but did not seem surprised at the success of the team from Simpson’s Hartsfield program, which also is a USA Shooting Certified Training Center.
In fact, he has watched the program for some 11 years.
Clark helped run the Alabama and Georgia Junior Olympics state competitions before turning them over to Simpson several years ago.
And it was in Simpson’s program that Clark watched the development of Cpl. Josh Webb, who is now a part of the U.S. Army Marksmanship team and is being groomed to take a shot at becoming a member the 2016 U.S. Olympic team. Webb has been on Army marksmanship team for two years and is doing well, Clark said.
For his part, Simpson was especially pleased with the success of the ABAC team, which included Spencer Ensley, Tyler Raulerson, Jay Wingate, Haden Green and Justin Watson.
The ABAC finished first in a field that included teams from Texas A&M and the University of Tennessee.
Raulerson was first in the collegiate division, Wingate was second and Ensley was third.
Simpson and the ABAC team are leaving Tuesday for San Antonio, Texas, where they will compete in the U.S. Collegiate National Championships.
In the Scholastic Clay Target Progam Challenge, competitors could shoot skeet or trap or both.
Clark said many shooters prefer to compete only in their chosen event.
But he said he was pleasantly surprised to see 48 shooters in the Saturday skeet event and 48 more in the next day’s trap event.
“And about 65 to 70 percent shot both events,” Clark said. “We weren’t expecting that.”
In the trap competition, Will Hinton, recently selected for USA Shooting’s National team, finished first with a 98 and was second in the senior division.
The Dacula High student, who travels to Hartsfield to train, finished tied for first in the combined skeet and trap scores with a total of 162 out of 200 targets, but was the runner-up in the tiebreaker. Raulerson had 146 and Ensley 145.
Sawyer Eubanks won the gold medal in the skeet even.
Also in the trap event, Ensley was second with a 97; Raulerson was third with a 96; Wingate was fifth with a 94; and Justin Brooks was sixth with a 77.
Also competing the SCTP Challenge in trap from the Hartsfield club were Tyler Lirio, who third in the senior division; National Team member Chris Webster; Woody Harris, who was first in the intermediate division; Justin Watson, Max Milan, Halen Green, Hunter Hancock, Gray Hinton, Christian Salvanera, Jones Pidcock and Sawyer Eubanks, who second in the rookie division.
Simpson said Col. Daniel Hodne, the commander of the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, praised the the South Georgia club’s effort.
Simpson was pleased with his team’s performance.
“They shot well enough to win,” he said, but added, “They can shoot better.”