JACKSONVILLE – Teams from Bald Knob, Corning, White Hall and Bentonville will carry top seeds into this weekend’s Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program Senior State Tournament. Meanwhile, junior squads from Cossatot, Beebe, Cabot and Ashdown are the top seeds in the Junior State Tournament, and both events will be staged at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex.
The juniors will decide their champion Friday in a 64-team bracket, while the seniors have the complex Saturday. Shooting on both days begins at 9 a.m., preceded by preliminary activities and the National Anthem starting at 8:15 a.m. The top-seeded teams in both divisions each were champions in the regional rounds held here over a four-weekend period starting in late April.
Teams set their particular seeding by the order of finish in each regional for the finals’ bracket play. Each tournament is staged like an NCAA basketball tournament, where a No. 1 seed squares off against one of four No. 16 seeds, a 2 seed competes against a 15 seed, and so forth. Teams that win the state championship must win six matches without a loss. Third place will also be decided with a sixth match between the semifinal losers.
“We’re expecting 640 shooters over the two days. We take the top 16 from each of four regions in both the senior and junior divisions and bring them together,” Jimmy Self, AYSSP coordinator, said. “We’re hoping to have some great shooting and, I hope, great weather. We know there is a forecast of possible rain, but as long as there is no lightning, we’ll proceed on. And this year, we have something different: The event will be carried live on the (AGFC) Facebook page.”
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Facebook page will carry a live stream of both Friday’s and Saturday’s competition, including the trophy presentations at the end of both days, hosted by Trey Reid, AGFC assistant division chief of communications.
Bald Knob claimed the title last year in the senior division, and its Gray squad returns four shooters from the 2018 winning squad. However, it’s Corning High School’s Black squad that compiled the best shooting total during this spring’s regional competition, winning the East Regional with 243 targets hit out of 250. Three other teams from the East shot better than Bald Knob Gray’s 234 that bested its competition for the North Regional crown. Bald Knob’s total also required two 49-for-50 shooters from returning seniors Hunter Throckmorton and Paige Hanna for its team to win a card-off with Conway Cat Trap and claim a second straight North Region title after the two teams were deadlocked at 234.
Seniors shot 50 clay targets during regional shooting, but in competition this Saturday each match will require 25 shots from each of the five team members per matchup. Junior teams shot 125 total shots among five shooters during their regional rounds and will shoot the same number for each matchup in their bracket play.
Champion of Champions competition in the two divisions will bring together shooters who hit all targets during their regional tournaments. Six seniors qualified for this year’s shoot-off: Braden Fitts, Nashville Scrapper 1; Hayden Curtis, Cross County Thunderbirds 1; Jaron Lancaster, Southside 1; Jase Hambrick, Duck Commanders; Billy Butler, Green Forest Tigers; and Bri Sanderson, Ack Ack Minutemen. Junior competitors hitting all 25 of their shots during regional competition and advancing were Drake Abney and Hunter Mize, Ashdown 1; Megan Bond, Magnolia Cubs Red; David Johnson, Pulaski Academy Bruin Gold; Logan Applegate, Jacksonville Youth Shooting Club Red; Luke Clayton, Cross County Thunderbirds 1, Caroline Epperson, Ozark Youth Shooting Sports 1; Elijah Thorne, Greenwood Bulldog Blasters; and Matthan Neal, MCDA Minutemen.
The Champion of Champions shoot-offs will be conducted immediately after the bracket tournament concludes both days. There is no admission charge to the tournaments. The AGFC will have its Scales of Justice and aquaculture trailers onsite, and food and retail vendors will be available, including gun vendors and hunting accessory companies, Self said. The AGFC will also man archery and fishing stations for competitors and visitors to use during the day. The Jacksonville Shooting Sports Complex is east-northeast of downtown Jacksonville on Graham Road.
Brackets are posted on the AYSSP Facebook page and on www.agfc.com/get-involved/first-steps-outdoors/ayssp