When you're competing at the state championships in any sport, the margin for error is razor-thin if you want to take home a state title.
Columbus and Northside learned that lesson the hard way Saturday at the Georgia High School Association State Rifle Championships at the Pool International Shooting Complex on Fort Benning. The Blue Devils (1,149) and Patriots (1,134) both shot team totals that would've placed highly or even taken home state championships in prior years, but on Saturday they only placed sixth and seventh, respectively, out of 13 teams.
"I thought we shot well overall," said Columbus coach Frank Tuggle. "I'm a little disappointed, but I'm proud of our shooters. We had some shooters struggle a little bit, but they didn't fall apart when they did. They held it together as best they could."
Columbus was led by senior Kelly Orck, who was shooting in her second state finals after shooting a 275 and finishing 55th overall in 2013. On Saturday, Orck opened strong with a 99 out of 100 in the prone position and followed that up with a 96 in the standing -- the most difficult of the three positions -- to sit in sixth place going into the kneeling. She finished with a 96 to total 291 points out of a possible 300 and place ninth overall, only missing out on the 10-shot individual finals on the tiebreaker of having fewer bull's-eyes than two other shooters that also finished at 291.
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Orck narrowed down where things went awry for her to one shot in the standing position, but still was glad she got a chance to redeem herself on the state championship stage.
"There was only one instance where I felt like it got away from me," said Orck. "My last shot standing was an '8'. I got a little excited before the shot and it was off and that settled the score. I'm sad I didn't make the finals, but it was a big improvement. Going to the state finals last year was intimidating for me and I'm glad I was able to make a big improvement."
Allatoona's Alana Kelly won the state individual title with a qualifying score of 296 -- a state record -- and a final total score of 396.9. Kelly was almost four points ahead of runner-up Brandon Thomas of Apalachee (393.1) and Brianna Shelton of Winder-Barrow rounded out the top three at 392.4.
After Orck, next in line for Columbus was senior Josh Gonzales, a veteran shooting in his third state finals. Gonzales scored a perfect 100 in the prone, but followed that with a 90 in the standing to dash his hopes of making it to the individual finals. He did finish strong, though, with a 99 in the kneeling to post a score of 289, good enough for 17th place overall.
Sophomore Veronica Leggett, making her state finals debut, matched Orck in the prone and standing with a 99 and 96 to sit fourth going into the kneeling. However, Leggett was only able to shoot a 93 in the final position, totalling 288 to come in 22nd overall. The fourth shooter for Columbus, fellow sophomore Sierra Moon -- also making her state finals debut -- shot a solid 97 in the prone, but followed it with an 85 out of 100 in the standing. Moon did finish strong with a 96 in the kneeling to wind up with a 278, 51st in the individual standings.
"We lose a lot of great shooters, but we'll just have to rebuild and get ready for next year," said Tuggle.
Junior Shelby Huber -- shooting in his second state finals -- led Northside with a 26th-place finish. Huber shot 97 in the prone and followed that with a 93 standing before closing with a 97 in the kneeling position to finish with a total of 287. Cason Borum -- another junior in his second state championship -- was next in 34th place with a total of 285 (97 prone, 91 standing, 97 kneeling).
Senior Brianna Henthorn -- who is slated to sign with Columbus State on Wednesday and was shooting in her third state finals for the Patriots -- placed 40th overall with a total of 283. Henthorn started with a 98 in the prone position and followed it with a 93 standing and 92 kneeling. Sophomore Jade Gallahair -- the only state championship rookie in Northside's lineup -- was 50th at 279 following scores of 94 (prone), 92 (standing) and 93 (kneeling).
"I thought we shot as well as we were capable of today," said Northside coach Richard Brewer. "I thought all of my shooters were nervous and had a bit of the jitters, whether they'll admit it or not. Based on what we shot in the postseason, we shot less than what we're capable of, but that happens sometimes. We just couldn't get into a rhythm today."
Allatoona won the team title with a state record total of 1,162 as the Buccaneers had three shooters top the 290-point mark in the qualifying round. Upson-Lee came in second at 1,153, just ahead of Lumpkin County (1,152) and East Coweta (1,149).Georgia High School AssociationState Rifle Championships
at Pool International Shooting Complex
1. Allatoona 1,162* (Ann Clay 292, Tommy Simrill 290, Anna Kelly 296*, Addison Helbling 284), 2. Upson-Lee (Alyssa Hanson 288, Shannon Tyssen 287, Rosemary Kramer 291, Miranda Baxley 287), 3. Lumpkin County 1,152 (Rhiannon Smith 284, Dakota Spivey 289, Heather Johnson 290, Morgan Tritt 289), 4. East Coweta 1,149 (Glen Lauzon 290, Alex Wright 291, Destiny Collier 280, Jonathan Satterfield 288), 5. Lee County 1,147 (Katelyn Howell 290, Courtney Weekly 292, Diamante Smith 284, Dylan Russell 281), 6. Columbus 1,146 (Kelly Orck 291, Josh Gonzales 289, Veronica Leggett 288, Sierra Moon 278), 7. Northside 1,134 (Cason Borum 285, Shelby Huber 287, Jade Gallahair 279, Brianna Henthorn 283), 8. Ware County 1,132 (Cody McMillan 287, Shelbie Smith 283, Bryan Whitaker 279, Kimberlee Nettles 281), 8. Elbert County 1,132 (Hannah Gary 290, Hunter Vickery 289, Tyler Segars 274, Jackson Whitlock 279), 10. Parkview 1,126 (Jonathan Stoves 289, William Zimmerman 275, Dalton Stoves 285, Gino Parathemmakill 277), 11. Luella 1,114 (Keon Carter 273, Talese Simley 267, Ethan Brown 290, Damasta Altman 284), 12. North Forsyth 1,101 (Alyson Godwin 281, Cameron Houston 270, Avery Babykin 270, Emily Strube 280), 13. Rutland 1,096 (Benjamin Gilbert 278, Ralph Cameron 276, Rafael Burgos 271, Gabriel Burgos 271).
Top 8 Individuals
1. Alana Kelly (Allatoona) 396.9, 2. Brandon Thomas (Appalachee) 393.1, 3. Brianna Shelton (Winder-Barrow) 392.4, 4. Courtney Weekly (Lee Co.) 390.9, 5. Ann Clay (Allatoona) 389.2, 6. Mitchell Miller (Union Grove) 388.4, 7. Matthew Waters (Monroe Area) 387.6, 8. Alex Wright (E. Coweta) 383.7.