McDERMOTT — Simply put, in the Northwest Local School District, the Mohawks are already emerging in the sport of clay shooting.
That’s because, for the first time this past spring, Northwest offered — and the numbers drew well with — a shooting sports team, consisting of 23 total student-athletes encompassing Northwest High School and Northwest Middle School.
Just how well did this first campaign go?
The Mohawks placed third as a team at Ohio’s USA Clay Target League Tournament in Delaware in mid-June, while capturing runner-up honors at the SCTP State Tournament around the same time.
To be honest, if there is such a “Cinderella” story in clay shooting, then the Mohawks wore that glass slipper, per Gary Bennett, who oversees the program as one of its coaches.
Bennett’s daughter, Arika, is the actual Northwest Sports Shooting head coach.
“This really is a ‘Cinderella’ success story. We’ve so far exceeded our expectations already. We thought this might be the right time to try and do this (start shooting sports team), and the Northwest School Board (of Education) agreed. We’ve had a lot of individual and team accomplishments, and other teams, established shooting programs, commented to us at the state tournament how strong of a group we were,” said Gary Bennett. “We had great participation, and to finish third out of 16 teams is a great accomplishment for us.”
Per Bennett, Northwest is one of only 22 sports shooting programs in the state —which also include in Southeast Ohio teams from Gallia Academy and Huntington.
The schools are separated by size into two divisions (I and II), as the Mohawks are members of the USA Clay Target League and the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP).
Their regular-season shooting range is the Pike County Coonhunters Club, as there are two types of clay target shooting: Trap and Skeet.
Both have been around for hundreds of years, and have greatly evolved from being a training exercise for hunters to keep fit during the hunting “offseason” —to now being both competitive and Olympic sports.
In Trap shooting, shooters stand in a line — and aim at targets which are launched from a station placed partially underground.
The target usually moves away from its release point, there are five posts, and the same number of shooters alternate their positions so that they can complete a firing from each target.
In Skeet shooting, the target is launched from two posts, the set-up usually features a field, and there are eight numbered stations.
With a group of five shooters, they move around the semi-circular field between stations in a sequential manner.
The basic differences are that in Trap, participants shoot five times from each station while in Skeet, they move clockwise to each station and take their shot — based on how many targets are released.
In Trap, the targets usually move away from the shooter while in Skeet, they move either towards or away from the shooter.
Northwest’s 23-member unit included student-athletes from grades six thru 12, as the competitors are divided into four categories —Entry/Beginner, Intermediate/Entry, Senior/Junior Class and Senior/Varsity Class.
But Bennett said beyond any accomplishments, the utmost priority in shooting sports is safety.
“Safety comes first. There are some strict rules regarding safety. The rules are outlined before each practice and tournament, and they are not to be debated with or compromised. You compete with those safety rules in place, and there are no guns kept at the school,” he said. “The ‘if you see something, say something’ is taken very seriously.”
Bennett said recognized shooting sports started in 1991, and since then over 31,600 kids and almost 1,500 teams nationwide have participated.
There have bee n no reported serious injuries —even with a million shots fired from the past three full decades.
All competitors, and coaches, must successfully complete a sports shooting safety course —before each year.
As for the major Mohawk awards, the individuals which made up the runner-up club at the SCTP State Tournament included Aaren Penn, Seth Jenkins, Orville Tackett, Deke Tackett and Rese Lute.
As part of the third-place performance for the USA Clay Target League state meet, senior Orville Tackett took home first-place for Males Varsity — and Emma Bragdon was the runner-up for Female Novice.
Naturally, as Bennett explained, the Northwest program plans on “continuing to build”.
“This is a pretty big deal so we want to see the program grow. We have a great group of parents which are involved, and although we want the kids to work hard and improve their shooting skills, our top two goals are always safety at every practice and every meet, and enjoy yourself and have fun,” he said. “We’re always looking to add sponsors, we want to eventually get into fundraising, and we always want to have good equipment and supplies. The kids really enjoyed this first year, and already there is a lot of interest for building what we’ve started.”
Actually, the shooting season stopped nary —as Northwest qualified for and took a team last weekend to the USA Clay Target League Nationals in Mason, Mich.
This past week, and concluding on Saturday (July 16), the Mohawks participated at the SCTP Nationals in Columbus —at The Cardinal Shooting Center.
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SCTP Regional Awards
Remington Bennett — 2nd-place at Mid American Youth Championship in Senior/Varsity
Michael Peercy — 2nd-place at Mid American Youth Championship in Intermediate/Entry Level
Remington Bennett — 3rd-place at SCTP Regionals for Senior/Varsity
Orville Tackett — 2nd-place at SCTP Regionals for Senior/Junior Varsity
USA Clay Target League
Conference Season Awards
Northwest team placed 2nd for Team High Point Average
Remington Bennett — 1st-place Season High Point Average Males
Orville Tackett —3rd-place Season High Point Average Males
Thatcher Webb — 4th-place Season High Point Average Males
Aaren Penn — 6th-place Season High Point Average Males
Boston Wolfe — 9th-place Season High Point Average Males
Audrina Brewer — 9th-place Season High Point Average Females
USA Clay Target League
State Season Awards
Remington Bennett — 1st-place High Point Average Overall
Remington Bennett — 1st-place High Point Average Males
Orville Tackett — 5th-place High Point Average Males
Aaren Penn — Top 25 High Point Average Males
Thatcher Webb — Top 25 High Point Average Males
USA Clay Target League
State Tournament Awards
Northwest team placed third
Orville Tackett — 1st-place Males Varsity
Emma Bragdon — 2nd-place Females Novice
SCTP State Tournament Awards
Northwest team placed 2nd in Senior/Junior Varsity (Aaren Penn, Seth Jenkins, Orville Tackett, Deke Tackett, Reese Lute)
Orville Tackett — Placed 2nd in Senior/Junior Varsity
Aaren Penn — Placed 3rd in Senior/Junior Varsity
Thatcher Webb — Placed 5th in Intermediate/Entry Level
Caden Diesel Ferguson – Placed 6th in Intermediate/Entry Level