JACKSONVILLE – Corning High School’s senior trap shooting program placed four teams in the top 16, all qualifying for the State Finals, with its Black squad running away with the championship of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sport Program’s East Regional held Saturday at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex.
Corning Black totaled 243 points (or targets hit) out of 250 attempts to win by five over second-place and nearby rival Jonesboro Westside Red. After the conclusion of the trophy presentation Saturday, all the members of the Westside teams were lined up just off the presenting stage to congratulate the five Corning Black shooters and their coaches for winning the regional title.
“They (Westside) come up and shoot with us quite a bit,” said Corning coach Jim Clifton, whose program has won two state championships, several regionals and regularly has found itself competing for other AYSSP titles since Corning started the team 11 years ago. “It’s been a very good program,” Clifton said, who has coached the program since its inception. Clifton said that he and several others interested in developing the program built a private shooting range, Black River Trap and Skeet Club, for the youths to work on their skills and compete there in tournament shooting events.
Juniors Weston Honer, Guy Clay Smith and David Ladd showed off their skill for Corning, hitting 49 of 50 targets, while senior Chandler Conyers and junior Beau Young missed just two of 50 attempts, easily one of the better team scores recorded in regional competition. Ladd came the closest to nailing all his shots before his one miss, running off 44 straight hits.
“The scores were really high today,” said the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Jimmy Self, the AYSSP coordinator, noting that 222 targets hit was the cutline for the Top 16, and six teams reached that mark but only one could advance to the State Finals as part of the 16 top scores Saturday. Deadlocks are settled by a card-off, with the advancing team having the most individual bests among the tied teams.
Westside Red was paced by a 49-for-50 effort from Chance Welch and 48-for-50 performances by Mason Burris and Jax Goad to finish at 238, three shots clear of the Cross County Thunderbirds Trap Team Squad 1. Cross County’s Hayden Curtis was the lone shooter Saturday to hit all 50 shots and qualify for the Champion of Champions tournament, which will follow the State Finals bracket competition June 1 here.
Meanwhile, in last Friday’s East Junior Regional, four out of five Dead Eye Shooters from the Cabot Panthers trap shooting team each missed just one shot out of 25, an impressive balance that carried the squad to a breezing win. The Dead Eye Shooters, whose winning score of 117 out of 125 attempts was five shots better than the second-place finisher and nine ahead of third, were one of three Cabot Panthers trap teams to advance to the Junior State Finals, which will be staged here May 31.
Jonesboro Westside Red, a usual contender in the East Junior Regional, gave the Dead Eye Shooters their closest competition by hitting 112 targets among its five shooters. The Five Rivers Trap squad’s team Eleven Point was in third with 108, just ahead of the Cross County Thunderbirds’ Squad One at 107.
Three junior shooters moved on to the May 31 Champion of Champions event by hitting all 25 shots Friday. They were Logan Applegate of Jacksonville Youth Shooting Club, whose team was sixth overall; Luke Clayton of Cross County Thunderbirds Squad One; and David Johnson of Pulaski Academy Bruins Gold.
For Corning’s Clifton, it was a big weekend as five of the Corning’s six full (5-person) teams, including one of two junior teams that competed Friday, qualified for the State round. He also had five total high school shooters hit 49 of 50 shots Saturday. “We didn’t have anybody get them all, but I’ll take a 49 any day of the week,” Clifton said.
Joining their winning teammates in the Senior State Finals from Corning are the Corning Gold, White and Gray teams. Also qualifying for the championship play from the East were Catholic High Rockets 7, Greene County 4-H Shooting Sports 3, Marmaduke Gunning Greyhounds Kyle’s Klaybusters, Cabot Panthers Single Barrel Boys, Jacksonville Youth Shooting Club Red, Cabot Panthers Beauty and the Beasts, Manila High Gold, Baptist Prep Orange Fairy Dust, Gosnell Trap Team Hogs and Cabot Panthers Dead Bird Society.
Clayton Baxter, Connor Reaves, Tyler Stephens and Tyler Moreno each went 24-for-25 for the Junior champion. Dead Eye Shooters. Reaves missed his second shot of the day, then reeled off 23 in a row. Baylor Ward wasn’t far off his teammates, hitting 21 of 25. Meanwhile, two other Cabot teams extended their seasons by landing State Final spots. The Cabot Panthers Dust Donkeys had a solid day with 100 out of 125 for 11th place, and Cabot’s Trigger Happy recorded a 14th place finish with 94.
Other East Junior Region teams who qualified for the state final were Jonesboro Shooting Stars Busted and Dusted, GSSM Trap Gold, Bruins Gold, Catholic High Rockets Fire Cracker 2, Greene County 4-H Shooting Sports 1, Corning Trap Team Black, Cross County Thunderbirds 2, Westside Trap Team White and Rivercrest Colts Clay Busters.
Two more regionals are yet to be decided: The North juniors and seniors are up this Friday and Saturday, May 10-11, and the West Region has the fields on May 17-18. Regional action starts each day at 8:30 a.m., and there is no admission charge. Food and retail vendors are onsite, and participants and families can enjoy archery and fishing stages at the complex, too.