GHSA riflery championships set for this Saturday at Fort Benning

Courtesy of GHSA

The GHSA Riflery State Championship presented by Georgia Army National Guard takes place this Saturday, April 28 at the Pool International Shooting Complex at Fort Benning.

Fifteen schools automatically qualified by winning their head-to-head semifinal matches. They are East Coweta (1151), St. Vincent’s (1107), LaFayette (1146), Allatoona (1157), Tift County (1138), Buford (1135), Cherokee (1122), North Forsyth (1106), Columbus (1125), Social Circle (1130), Woodward Academy (1139), Carrollton (1141), Ware County (1174), Paulding County (1124) and Riverside Military (1118). The two highest losing semifinalists also earned spots, Lumpkin County (1137) and Upson-Lee (1125), rounding out the field to 17 teams.

Defending state champion Ware County posted the highest team score at the semis, topping second-highest Allatoona and third-highest East Coweta by 17 and 23 points, respectively. Just like Saturday’s championship format, the top four scores of the five-person teams will be calculated for the team score, and Ware County is already showing an incredible combination of talent and depth. In the semis, Ben Smith shot perfect 100s on the prone and kneeling and got a 96 out of 100 on the standing position to notch a state-best 296 aggregate score. Teammates Laci Jewell (294), Tyler Hanson (293), Raine Riggins (291) and Bryce Young (285) were not far behind, and Jewell led the way with 22 10-point shots in her 30 attempts to Smith’s 20.

Georgia’s GHSA and Hawaii’s HHSAA are the only two states that offer riflery as a sanctioned sport, and Georgia is the only one that offers it as a co-ed sport. Girls in both states are continuing to raise the bar. Last year, Monroe Area sophomore Rayven Fincher qualified for the individual title with a 294 and then posted a 101.5 in her 10-shot final to take home the individual crown with a 395.5. Fincher missed out on qualifying for the Junior Olympics by just one point and was just shy of Amber Crist’s Individual State Championship (398.9), but it still marked a significant achievement after Fincher missed state her freshman year after a car crash forced a six-month recovery.

East Coweta won the state title in 2016 and was seven points behind Ware County (1,160) at last year’s finals. The Indians have been on fire this season with senior Tanner Whitehead leading the way. Whitehead, who earned the silver medal in the individual competition last year, led Area 5 this season with a season-best 298.

Admission is free and the horseshoe shape of the range will allow 72 competitors to line up at once to take aim at the state-of-the-art, computerized scoring targets.

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