May 15, 2019
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
JACKSONVILLE – Defending state champion Bald Knob served noticed it's not stepping aside in 2019 without a tussle, but its top squad, Bulldog Gray, also learned that defending even its 2018 regional crown wouldn’t be easy. The Bulldogs Gray Trap Team, led by seniors Paige Hanna and Hunter Throckmorton, captured another title in the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program's North Senior Regional Saturday at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex, but it took those two seniors’ near-perfect shooting to outlast Conway Cat Trap 1.
Hanna and Throckmorton both hit 49 of 50 shots. That may have been Bald Knob's only disappointment of the day – with one early miss, both just missed qualifying for the Champion of Champions event, which brings together shooters with perfect 50s in the regional round; Throckmorton was the Junior Champion of Champions winner in 2015. He missed his second shot Saturday before reeling off 48 in a row. Hanna hit her last 46 shots.
And, with Owen Evans and Linc Holt both hitting 46 of 50 shots and Sully Holt adding a 44-for-50 performance, Bald Knob Gray's 234 total put them in first place early in the day.
At the end of the competition, however, Bald Knob found itself tied at 234 with Conway Cat Trap 1. In regional competition, ties as broken by the scorecard breakdown of best individual shooters, and Hanna and Throckmorton's 49s proved to be the difference. Conway at just one 49-for-50 shooter in William Martindale and settled for a second-place overall. Bald Knob’s program had three teams and Conway Cat Trap had two teams that join nine other North Region teams advancing to the State Finals, scheduled for June 1, when 64 senior teams are matched in head-to-head bracket competition (25 shots per shooter for each match) to determine a champion. The regional results determine seeding.
With one regional, the West, remaining to be decided May 17-18, this year's Champion of Champions event on June 1 has small company: Saturday, two shooters hit all 50 shots, as Jaron Lancaster of Southside 1 and Jase Hambrick of the Cave City Sharpshooters Duck Commanders moved on with perfect days. They join Braden Fritts from Nashville Scrapper Team 1, who hit all 50 shots in the South Senior Regional in late April. Last year, a record 15 senior division shooters reached the Champion of Champions round.
Southside had the two best shooters on one team, with Lancaster's 50 nearly being matched by Caleb Hewitt, who missed just one shot. But Southside didn't have the depth of Bald Knob Gray on Conway Cat Trap 1 and landed in third place with a 229 total.
The other North qualifiers for the State Finals are (in order of Saturday’s regional finish): Cave City Sharpshooters Duck Commanders, Bergman Panthers Bandits, Bald Knob Bulldogs White, Batesville Pioneer Trap Team White, Salem Shooting Sports 1, South Side FFA Team A, Valley Springs Lead Slingers, Batesville Pioneer Trap Team Orange, MVE Claybusters 2, Conway Cat Trap 2, Beebe Blasters Arkansas Trap Select, White County Central Shooting Sports Squad 1 and Bald Knob Bulldogs Blue.
In the North Junior Regional on Friday, the Beebe Blasters Triple B squad rode consistent shooting among its five members to take the crown. For the first time in three Friday regional events, no shooter hit all 25 targets. But Beebe’s Gus Smith hit 24 of 25 to lead Triple B, and Chase Gaines and Dylan Kimbriel hit 23 each, and Louden Cupp was 22-for-25, to pave the way to the regional championship.
Bald Knob, a trap-shooting powerhouse program in the region for several years, place teams in the third and fourth spots overall, but it was the Rose Bud Sharpshooters’ Rollin’ Thru team that took second place, four targets behind Beebe Triple B’s 108 total. Bald Knob Bulldogs Team 3 totaled 102 and Bald Knob Bulldogs Team 1 scored 100.
Those four and 12 other squads landed spots in the May 31 Junior State Finals. The rest of the North qualifiers were Cave City Sharpshooters Master Blasters, Harrison Goblin Leadslingers Pigeon Punchers, Highland High School 1, Mountain Home Bombers Trap Team Bomb Squad, Southside Shooting Sports Southerners, Faulkner County 4H Wad Squad, Viola AYSSP 1, Cedar Ridge Timberwolves Clay Busters, Batesville Junior High Black, South Side FFA A Team, Salem Shooting Sports and Searcy Shooting Sports 1. A score of 90 was the cutoff at 16th place. The regional drew 92 teams of at least one shooter each.
The final regional, featuring teams from the West Region, will be held Friday (juniors) and Saturday (seniors) at the Complex, with both rounds beginning at 8:30 a.m. There is no admission charge to the tournament, and retail and food vendors are onsite. Also, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is operating archery and fishing stations for the competitors and families during downtime. The pond at the Complex is stocked with catfish by the AGFC’s Family and Community Fishing Program; a fishing license is required for anyone 16 or older.