Southwest lived up to its reputation for producing the top trap shooters in the state by claiming the championship at the Missouri State High School Shoot held at Linn Creek on April 8.
The Southwest High School team was the state's top team for the fourth year in a row, and senior Drew Nickols was the high overall shooter with a perfect score of 100 out of 100.
Emery Phillips, another Southwest senior, placed third in the high school class with a score of 96 out of 100. Junior Lindsay Hutson won the ladies division with a score of 97/100.
This year's state shoot drew a larger number of competitors than previous years. There were over 640 shooters competing and 14 different schools represented from all classes.
Southwest's red team of Nickols, Phillips, Hutson, Tyler Wallace and Josh Rose won the high school championship with a team score of 479 out of 500. Lee's Summit, a large school located outside of Kansas City, finished as state runners-up with a team score of 461 out of 500. Silex High School was the third place finisher with a score of 447/500.
"I am extremely pleased with our performance at state," said Coach Mike Vining. "Everyone has worked hard all winter, and their efforts have paid off."
By Vining's estimation, this year's team is by far the most competitive group to come through the school in the last five years.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of our seniors," said Vining. "They have ended their last year of high school, completing a run of four years as state champions.
"I can't tell you how hard it is to accomplish this feat, considering that they have been marked as the team to beat everywhere we go," Vining added. "Repeating as state champs once is very good, but four years running is remarkable."
Nickols' perfect score at state was also a major accomplishment and great way for the senior to finish up his high school career.
"What a way to end your career at state," said Vining. "One hundred straight is tough to do with all the pressure, but Drew was as focused as I had seen him in a long time."
Vining also commented on the high school team's unity.
"They had a really good rhythm going, and you could tell they were totally supporting each other up there," said Vining. "Even though they did win, I believe they have yet to see their best score. I think they should be peaking about the right time in June when we go to the national qualifier."
Southwest's junior high team also had a good showing at the state meet.
The Trojan shooters, which included Matthew Snyder, Brittany Wright, Charlie Phillips, Jason Cockrum and Cole Moore, finished as state runners-up in the competition with a team score of 424, which was only three targets behind state champion Tina Avalon.
"Like the high school, the junior high team put up a good enough number to finish second, but I think we have yet to see what they're capable of," said Vining. "Rick Wright, my assistant coach, has been working really hard with this group all winter, and they have really made some strides."
Snyder, a Southwest eighth grader, tied for third individually in the junior high division. He hit 92 out of 100 targets.
Other shooters who competed for Southwest High School this year were Bo Stephens, Emily Wolf, Tyler Cockrum, Briana Stephens, Adam Morgan, Craig Laney and Dustin Swigart. Additional members of the junior high team were Alan McNabb, Eli Bridges, Johnathon Wolf, Blake Hayworth, Leonard Patterson, Ricky McNabb, Austin Morgan and Mickie Catron.
"These students are very important to our team," said Vining. "They are the ones pushing the others to be better. Our process of squad selection is very competitive, and everyone of these young shooters are consistently challenging for sports on the top teams. Without these guys and gals pushing the others, we would not be where we are today."
Vining also applauded the efforts of the parents in supporting the Southwest Trap Teams.
"The parents have been taking the kids to a lot of non-school sponsored shoots, getting them accustomed to competitive shooting," said Vining. "Their dedication is very much appreciated, not only by Rick and myself, but the by the kids."
According to Vining, the parents are currently making plans to travel with their children to Illinois to compete in the U.S. Open. The site of this shoot is where Southwest shooters will be competing if they qualify for the national championships.
"This will be a great advantage to us if we can get qualified at our state level in June," Vining added. "Once again, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to all the local businesses and citizens who have helped us with their generosity and made it possible for this great group of athletes to achieve success. When these young men and young ladies take the line, they are not only shooting for Southwest but are representing southern Barry County as well.