Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Members of the Southwest junior high trap shooting team, from left, Joseph Stockton, Caleb Ayer, Ty Howard, Samuel Jennings and Olivia Ayer await their turns to shoot at the national meet. Contributed Photo

Southwest trap wins national title

For the second time in Southwest trap team history, a National Championship trophy has made its home in Washburn.

The Trojans’ first national championship came to the high school team in 2009. Now, nine years later, it is the junior high program that brought home the AIM Grand National Title, held annually at the World Shooting Complex in Sparta, Ill.

The Southwest Junior High Trap team won the AIM Grand National Title in Sparta, Ill., last week. From left are: Samuel Jennings, Coach Larry Hicks, Joseph Stockton, Olivia Ayer, Caleb Ayer, Coach Mike Vining and Ty Howard. Contributed photo

The team of Ty Howard, Olivia Ayer, Samuel Jennings, Caleb Ayer and Joseph Stockton, along with alternates Colton Phillips and Alex Ramirez, hit a total of 874 of the 1,000 targets to take first in the 36-team field spanning the U.S and Canada.

Howard led the team in targets, breaking 190/200 over the two-day competition, followed by a 183 and a 172 from Jennings and Ayer, respectively.

The trio of shooters will be a nice addition to the high school squad next year according to Coach Mike Vining.

“After the first day, we were tied for the lead, [hitting] 429 of 500 targets,” Vining said. “Assistant Coach Larry Hicks and I met with the team that evening in the hotel. I debated whether to let them know where they stood and possibly cause them to tighten up the next day, or to not tell them and hope for the best on day two.

“I have always been the type to be up front with the kids, so I told them where they stood. Larry and I told them to go out the next day, stay focused, find their zone, shoot to their potential, and have a great day.”

Following their coaches’ advice the team dominated the second day of shooting.

“They not only matched the first day round, but increased their score by 16 targets,” Vining said. “At that point, I knew we had a shot, and it was then a matter of playing the waiting game for final scores to start coming in.”

The Trojans have been close in recent history to capturing a second high school national title, but they believe the future now is as bright as it has been since 2009.

“I have been saying for a couple of years that this bunch of kids were showing great potential, and that we were excited for what lay in store for them in the future,” Vining said. “They have worked hard for a couple of years and we are all happy and proud that the work they have put in has paid off.”

The Trojan high school team of Heather Windes, Dylan Morgan, Emily Snyder, Hunter Stanley and Leland Colf represented Southwest well in their toughest competition of the season, according to their coach.

“Every shooter on the squad shot several good rounds throughout Nationals, but we couldn’t get things going on day one as a team,” Vining said. “Larry and I met with them after the first day’s round as well just to give them a chance to clear their heads and be ready for day two.

“They knew they had an off day, so there was no need to go down that road with them. Larry and I re-enforced to them that our expectations are never to win every shoot, but rather to shoot to their potential each time out. It would have been very easy for them to give up after the first day, but they went out on the second day, shot much better as a team and increased their score.”

Southwest graduates one senior off the current roster in Emily Snyder.

“Emily has been with us a long time, and even though we hate losing such a great young lady and shooter, I know great things are ahead of her,” Vining said. “Southwest has a good tradition of graduating kids with a great work ethic, and Emily has that trait. She will succeed in whatever she does.”

Vining has already begun the process of assessing what he could have done better and what he needs to do to get the team back to the nation’s largest stage next year.

“Win, lose or draw, I would take this bunch of shooters to compete anywhere against anyone,” he said. “I needed to do a better job of having them mentally prepared, so that was on me. Thanks go out first and foremost to our assistant coach, Larry Hicks. Larry brings 40 years of trap shooting experience to our kids. His passion for the sport and willingness to dedicate his time to the kids is tremendous. Thanks also go to our booster club and all the area businesses and supporters of our little band of shooters. Words can’t come close to letting you know what you mean to our program. Thank you all for your generosity.”

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: