JACKSONVILLE – On the back of the T-shirts worn by the Russellville Shooting Team read the words “In memory of Andy Thomas.” Thomas, who passed away last year after battling cancer, had been a coach and one of the people instrumental with starting the Russellville shooting program six years ago, according to Russellville head coach Dwayne Rambo.
Thomas no doubt would have been proud to see how far the program had come on April 27 when the Russellville Clay Commanders captured the West Regional junior division in the Arkansas Game and Fish’s Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program state tournament at the Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex.
Russellville scored 107 out of 125 possible points to edge Springdale’s Accuracy in Motion Gunsmoke, which totaled 105 points. Berryville Puff Daddies were third with 102 points. Those three teams and 13 other teams that scored 92 or better Friday advance to the Junior Division State Championship, set for June 1 here.
Russellville’s team practices on land donated by a local gravel business, and Thomas was a major player in making the practice area happen, Rambo said. “He was one of the biggest components of getting those traps and trap houses in there. Along with a local engineer, Thomas “got all the money, they built the trap houses and put them up.”
Developing a shooting area for the team to practice was all part of a process in building the program, Rambo said. Last year was the first season the Russellville Shooting Team sent players to the state tournament. Winning the regional this year was such a surprise after their early shooting time had ended, two team members had long departed for home when the trophies were handed out and photos taken.
“Actually, you can kind of blame me,” Rambo said. “We’ve never been in this position before, never been where we were competing (for a title). I was just about 10 minutes from taking off and my son called and said, ‘Y’all are in first.’ I said, ‘What?’ We had a couple of kids going turkey hunting in Kansas and one was already back in Russellville.”
Meanwhile, Saturday’s competition focused on seniors from the West Region, with 134 teams vying. Led by Chase Wiggins’ perfect 50-for-50 targets, the Booneville Bearcats 1 cruised to the region championship with 239 points out of a possible 250. The Shiloh Christian Wildcards had second all alone at 231, but a card-off was required between two Accuracy in Motion teams to determine third place. Shell Shock got the nod thanks to a 48 out of 50 score by Seth Wood. The best score recorded by Accuracy in Motion Clay Slayers was a 47 by Hunter Thomas, which was equaled by Shell Shock’s second-best scorer, Colby Shepherd.
The Clay Slayers will get another chance to get the best of their in-school rivals, as well as compete for a state title too, when those four teams and 12 others from the West Regional join 16 teams each from the East, South and North regions in the Senior Division State Championship on June 2.
Along with Wiggins from the Booneville Bearcats 1, Hunter Depew of the Berryville Baby Bandits recorded a perfect 50 targets, and both will compete June 2 in the Tournament of Champions seniors individual event. Friday’s junior division saw four perfect scores, 25 of 25: Jarrett Woolery, Wildcat Trap 1; Elijah Thorne, Clay Blasters; Botey Teeter, Puff Daddies; and Ethan Simmons, Orange Busters. The junior Tournament of Champions will be conducted June 1 immediately after the conclusion of the team state tourney event.
Regional action continues of Friday and Saturday of the next three weeks at the Shooting Sports Complex