• 70°

Northeast shooting team wins

BENTONVILLE – Northeast Academy swept the competition as the varsity and junior varsity shooting teams took home top honors at the district contest.

The March 15 victory was the varsity team’s third consecutive title in a district unlike any other high school sports district.

“The districts aren’t broken down by the size of the school but geographic location,” explained coach Steve Bennett.

“In our district we’re the only private school and I suspect we’re the smallest school,” Bennett said of his team, which competes against Southern Nash and R.L. Fike among others.

Competition is important, but according to Bennett safety takes priority when you have kids with firearms.

“We stress the safe handling of firearms most of all,” he said.

Participants have to pass a hunter safety course before they can join the team and coaches also have to be certified.

Shooting teams also differ from other sports in their eligibility.

Senior teams are comprised of ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders while sixth, seventh and eighth graders make up junior varsity teams. No other junior varsity sport allows sixth graders to compete.

“You don’t have to be the fastest person to compete in shooting sports,” explained Bennett. “If they have good practice habits and good technique they can compete with any kid in the state.”

Northeast didn’t just compete in the district contest, they dominated.

The varsity team scored a combined 2,962 points, the highest ever score in the district. A perfect score is 3200.

Teams of four compete in four different events n archery, skeet, rifle and hunter skills n worth 800 points each, or 200 per participant. The combined score of all four events determines the team total.

Senior Jimmy Baker was the top individual overall in archery, scoring

199 out of 200. In archery each competitor shoots five arrows at a bull’s-eye from distances of 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. The team of Baker, Jeb Bennett, Hunter Nelson and Neil Brinkley took first place with 792 points.

Nelson scored a perfect 200 in skeet, but lost the shoot out and placed second. The team scored a combined 770 points, good enough for first place.

In addition to Nelson, Mike Sumner, Brinkley and Austin Bryant are on the skeet team. In skeet each participant shoots four times from five different positions.

Rifle participants shoot 50 feet away from the bull’s-eye but shoot from four different positions; standing, kneeling, sitting and laying on the ground. Northeast’s team of Baker, Bryant, Nelson and Justin Frances earned first place with 700 points. Nelson took top honors with a 183 out of 200.

The final component is hunter skills or compass as team members call it.

Participants take a written test based on material from the wildlife manual. The test accounts for one-half, or 400 points, of the total score.

Team members then run a course where they are given directions, such as go 50 feet at 20 degrees, and they must move to that spot with a compass as their only equipment. They move three times, ideally ending up at the predetermined, but secret, ending point.

Teams have 12 minutes to complete the course and lose one point for every foot they are away from the set point.

The team of Baker, Bennett, Bryant and Sumner placed second with a score of 700.

Northeast’s junior varsity team, led by Jake Ellis, captured first place in all four events and won the district with an overall score of 2496 out of 3200.

Ellis, a seventh grader, took top honors in all four events and was named Best Overall at the junior level. Participants must compete in all four events to qualify for the Best Overall and Ellis is the only member that meets that criteria.

Ellis not only dominated the junior division but he could have given the seniors a run for their money.

“Jake had the highest score of any junior or senior in rifle with a 185,” said Bennett. The top senior, Nelson, scored a 183.

Ellis, classmate Adam Creech and sixth graders Matt Ellison and Ryan Williams combined for a 603 in rifle. In archery it was Ellis, Creech, Jake Bryant Jacob Rogers winning for the Eagles with a 741. Ellis shot a 195 out of 200 for the first place individual finish.

Ellis, Creech, Williams and Bryant shot a 510 in skeet which was good enough for first. On the hunter skills event the team of Ellis, Ellison, Williams and Zach Byers scored a 691.

The wins qualify both teams for the state competition scheduled for April 28 at Camp Millstone.

Bennett and assistant coaches Richard and Lisa Williford, James Futrell and Neil Sumner, in addition to Joey Baker, have been working with the teams since late January.

“At these events there is no practice or warm-up before they compete,”

said Bennett. “You shoot cold and sometimes the kids that do well at practice don’t do well in competition because they need time to warm-up.”

Northeast proved they could do well and are hoping to continue their winning streak at the state contest, where last year they finished in the top ten. While the competition is fun, what matters most is that participants are learning safe and responsible handling of firearms.