Franklin High School’s clay shooting team capped off its season by sending six shooters to nationals in Marengo, Ohio.
“It’s a great thing to see these kids advance to nationals,” said head coach Scott Hubbard. “These kids have been working hard for a long time, some for several years, and it’s great that all that hard work has paid off.”
Franklin’s shooters will advance to face 2,500 other competitors from throughout the country. With the stakes so high, many shooters were feeling the heat, but they say that the key is to remain calm.
“I’m excited about my opportunity to compete at nationals,” said Ethan Hill. “Nerves are always a factor in a mental sport like shooting. I just have to keep my head clear and focus on the next bird.”
Hill is a 13-year-old second-year shooter. Despite being in the seventh-grade, he’s already competing against 15-year-olds — and winning. Hill’s prolific performance during the trap shoot saw him win the state championship.
“State was a big confidence booster for me,” Hill said. “I competed in my second shoot-off ever and won.”
Hill was one of the first shooters to take the mound during state. Throughout the day he saw his name stay at the No. 1 spot until the very end, when another shooter tied him.
From there, the two boys competed in a shoot-off, going head to head in a winner-takes-all competition. Hill prevailed and was crowned state champion shortly after.
It isn’t just Hill’s age and size that sets him apart from other shooters, it his gun.
“The really cool thing about Ethan is that he shoots a 20 gauge, practically everyone else shoots a 12 gauge,” said coach Victor Andrews. “This actually makes things a little more difficult for him, but he finds a way to succeed.”
Looking ahead toward nationals, Hill has made it his mission to shoot at least a 95 and open the day up with a perfect 75 in his first three rounds.
“He’s practicing extremely well. We had an hour-and-a-half practice this morning and he was knocking down birds automatically,” Andrews said. “He’s definitely hitting a lot more than he misses.”
Hill isn’t the only shooter who qualified for nationals. Rookie shooter Andrew Hubbard won state for sporting clays.
Sporting clays differs from trap shooting in the sense that shooters move from station to station and no two targets are ever the same.
“It’s known as the golf of the shot gun world,” Andrews said.
Hubbard took the win, but he won’t be at nationals because a church retreat he is attending is happening at the same time.
“When we first got there, I had no idea that we were going to win,” Hubbard said. “We got there before they announced awards, and we thought we were getting second, so it was a great feeling when we found out that we won. I was excited for the win because it was a win for our entire team.”
In a mental sport such as shooting, these wins are key to building the confidence needed to go out and knock down clays.
With a quarter of the team qualifying for nationals, the future looks even brighter for the Rebels.
“I think that everyone that’s going to nationals will do a great job,” Hubbard said. “These kids love competing, and now they get to go out and do it at a very high level.”