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Kirley Junior Shooters take ninth at Nationals

Right on target ... The Kirley Junior Shooters took ninth place at the National BB-gun match in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Front row, from left: Nick Neuhauser, John Willoughby, Haley Hand, Avery Johnson, Shantel Norman, Wyatt Johnson, Coach Kevin Neuhauser, Austin Briggs, and Coach Byron Hand. Back row: Coaches Darren Fischer and Jeff Willoughby.

Members of the Kirley Junior Shooters traveled over 11,000 miles to compete in the International B-B Gun Competition Match. They left Haakon County on June 28 for Bowling Green, Kentucky, and returned on July 4, bringing with them the ninth overall place ... a place earned out of 253 shooters, representing 39 teams, representing 19 states.

Five team members and two alternates of the Kirley Junior Shooters earned the honor to go to Nationals: John Willoughby, Nick Neuhauser, Austin Briggs, Haley Hand, Chantel Norman, Avery Johnson and Wyatt Johnson. Twenty-two area residents - parents, siblings and grandmothers - made the trip to cheer them on.

Competition was tight. The Kirley team shot 2,305 (with 71 centers) out of a possible 2,500 score. The first place team shot 2,396. Nick Neuhauser earned an individual 24th place by shooting a 381 out of a possible 400.

Two other South Dakota teams also made the National competition. The Spink County team took seventh place. The Pierre team was two-time defending champions, 2004 and 2005, with entirely different members each year as required by the national bylaws. Pierre shot the same score in 2006 as in 2005, yet only took fourth place this time.

All three South Dakota teams marched in the closing ceremonies as part of the top ten teams.

All alternate team members competed in their own match in which the top three in each shooting position earned medals. T-shirts, pins, visors, and special stickers to be placed on guns were given to competitors as proof of making the cut to nationals. Such memorabilia was not for sale.

Coaches for the Kirley Junior Shooters are Darrin Fischer, Kevin Neuhauser, Byron Hand and Jeff Willoughby. Kathy Fischer is the statistician.

"The Kirley Junior Shooters are always looking for kids who want to learn gun safety and shooting," said Willoughby. Practices for next year's shooting season will begin around the first of January.

Kids from seven through 15 years of age learn gun safety, and individual and team competition through membership in the Kirley Junior BB Gun Shooters, the only such club in western South Dakota. Kids in 4-H competition may be up to 18.

The kids are divided about equally between boys and girls. Shooters may borrow guns for practice. The basic gun costs around $70.

Other team members included Dustin Hand, Cattibree Riggle, Chalon Hedman, Daulton Prince, Weston Hicks, Hailey Norman, Madison Hand, Gavin Snook, Traye Hedman, Logan Hand, Garrett Snook, Paige Bramblee and Tryel Olson.