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Westside claims title and scholarships in YSS Senior State tourney; Corning’s junior dynasty grows

BY Jim Harris

ON 06-05-2024

YSS State Championship Senior Division

JACKSONVILLE — Jonesboro Westside Red was looking up at four of its neighboring rivals at the Youth Shooting Sports’ Senior East Regional earlier in May, but Westside’s five shooters all peaked at the right moment on Saturday, June 1, to bring home a Senior Division State Championship for a third time.

Both the junior event, held Friday, May 31, and won for the second-straight year by Corning, and the senior division tourney finals were staged at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex here and sponsored by Fiocchi. YSS is a program within the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Recreational Shooting Division.

Westside Red defeated Cabot Red 121-118, with Jackson Parks and Hayden James both hitting all 25 of their shots and no one on Westside missing more than two clays. Cabot, which finished in a three-way tie at the top for East Region but lost out on the regional championship by a card-off among the teams’ top shooters to Corning, and Westside had won five matches Saturday in head-to-head bracket competition to reach the final. The YSS title match is conducted differently from the rest of the 64-team state tournament, with the final two teams shooting on the same field, one squad followed by the other, but with the same 125 shots per squad. Westside won a coin flip and chose to shoot first, and after three misses in its first 50 shots, was nearly perfect in finishing its hot round. Meanwhile, Cabot duplicated its score from the semifinals, when it edged Shiloh Christian by one hit target to move on.

“After the first round, we got to shooting like we’re capable of,” first-year coach Danny Price said of Westside Red. “The first round was bad, but we got the nerves out of our system and shot the way we normally do.” Westside reached 121 twice in six matches, and all five shooters — Parks, James, Cole Cureton, James Smith and Sam Sloan — produced clean cards throughout the day. Cureton had a stretch of 99 straight hits, Parks said, and Cureton and Parks later competed in the Champion of Champions shootoff, having recorded 50 out of 50 targets during regional action.

Westside is a consolidated school district with students from Bono, Cash and Egypt, three towns outside of Jonesboro. The team has two trap fields near the school where it practices twice a week, Price said, and the squad sees Corning, Harrisburg, Jonesboro and other top teams regularly in scheduled trap shoots during the spring.

Parks and Cureton also went deep in a long Champion of Champions shoot-off in which it seemed for a while that no one among 10 shooters would give in. Eventually, though, Jordan Miller from Harrisburg was the last shooter standing. He and Parks reached the last shooting spot on the trap field, from 27 yards — and the many spectators watching wondered where the pair would shoot from next. Miller hit his 12th straight target, and Parks came next. Suddenly, it was over.

“I was kind of, like, shocked,” Miller said of his win. “(Parks) had been crushing targets the whole time and I was expecting him to crush that one. I think he shot just over it and all I felt was shock. Then it was overwhelming happiness.”
The Champion of Champions winner receives a $2,500 scholarship from the Doyne and Nancy Williams Endowment with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation.

“I’m going to heat and air (conditioning) school this fall at Arkansas State University-Newport and Marked Tree, and this will help pay for it,” Miller said.

Miller, whose Harrisburg Hornet Team 2 was the fourth seed from the East, had a lot longer to sit around on a hot, sunny Saturday than his Westside rivals, Parks and Cureton. “We got eliminated in the first box,” he said of Harrisburg’s upset loss. “We scored 119 and got beat by 1.”

Miller, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, according to his dad, credited the coaching he’s gotten from A.W. Curtis from Cross County the past four years. He said that while he doesn’t practice shooting at a clay pigeon from 27 feet, in handicap trap shooting events he has to shoot from 25 feet. The shot weight and velocity of YSS shells is lighter than what he uses in Amateur Trap Association events, too, he said. Juniors and seniors in YSS during competition shoot from one of five shooting positions at 16 yards behind the trap house.

Westside’s team won $7,500 in scholarship money from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Cabot, for finishing second, was awarded $5,000. Berryville’s Road Kill Grillers took third over Shiloh Christian and received $2,500 in scholarship money.

Corning, coming in with two YSS junior state championships over the past four years, made it a third but needed a perfect 25 from Bryson Murray to win a card-off with Bald Knob in the final on Friday.

Unlike the senior division, which saw No. 1 seeds fall right and left before the tournament reached the quarterfinals, the junior division’s top seeds dominated.

Corning and Bald Knob, top seed from the North Region, tied with 114 clays out of a possible 125, forcing the decision to the scorecards and individual results. Murray’s 25 bettered any score from Bald Knob, handing the crown back to Corning.

Jonesboro Trap Team’s Craighead Crushers finished third, defeating Ozark 116-98.

In the junior division Champion of Champions, Corning’s Christopher Scrogin was the last shooter standing among eight participants, all who had recorded perfect rounds of 25 out of 25 during their respective regional tournaments.

More than 5,400 students participated in the Youth Shooting Sports Program this season. Jimmy Self, the YSS program coordinator, said this was the wettest tournament yet with heavy rains throughout the past month, but Saturday was perfect weather.

Video features by the Arkansas Wildlife Television crew of both the junior and senior division championships are available on the AGFC Facebook page along with more photos from the weekend.






TOP SHOOTERS: Jonesboro Westside’s Cole Cureton connects on a clay pigeon during the final match of the YSS Senior State Championship June 1, while teammate Jackson Parks and line judge Trent Whitehead look on. Cureton and Parks helped lead Westside to the state championship and both also competed in the Champion of Champions shoot-off.

CHAMPS AGAIN: The fifth-seeded Jonesboro Westside Warriors Red put it all together June 1 to win the program’s second senior state championship, beating second-seeded Cabot. Both teams came out of the same East Region.

SOLE SURVIVOR: Jordan Miller of Harrisburg was the last shooter standing in a competitive Senior Champion of Champions shoot-out.

BIG CROWD: Shooters, parents and supporters crowded into the AGFF Shooting Sports Complex in Jacksonville on a bright Saturday, June 1, for the YSS Senior State Championship.

STILL THE CHAMPS: The latest version of the Corning shooting sports’ No. 1 team won the program’s third YSS Junior State Championship in the past four years.

SPLISH SPLASH: A week of heavy rains through early Friday morning left ample puddles around the AGFF Shooting Sports Complex for kids to enjoy during a hot and dry Saturday.

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