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Tiger shooter Aaron Weatherly places 79th in nation, breaks 194 out of 200 targets

COURTESY PHOTO: NHS - On July 8-10, 10 Newberg High School students, split into two teams of five, participated in the 2022 USA High School Clay Target League national championship after placing second in the state competition two weeks earlier.

MASON, Michigan -- Once again, Newberg has some of the best high school trap shooters in the country.

On July 8-10, 10 Newberg High School students, split into two teams of five, participated in the 2022 USA High School Clay Target League national championship after placing second in the state competition two weeks earlier.

The first team — composed of Aaron Weatherly, Nick Hailey, Coleman Croft, Devyn Hing and Wyatt Schliesleder — qualified for the finals and placed 78th out of 230 teams. The second team of Coen Stapleton, Wyatt Barnes, Nic Lahey, Walker Hilton and Aiden Perkins finished in103rd place. Of the nine teams from Oregon, the Tigers' two teams had the third and fourth highest scores.

Weatherly, Hailey and Wyatt Barnes qualified for the individual finals as well. Weatherly broke 194 out of 200 total targets to place 71st in the male division and 79th in the nation out of nearly 2,000 competitors. Hailey broke 190 targets and placed 219th in the male division and 235th in the nation. Barnes followed with 186 targets, placing him 328th in the male division and 353rd in the nation.

This is the second year NHS has made it to the finals at nationals.

"It's very rewarding for me to see the kids shoot the best scores of their life, and we had those kinds of performances, and that's what makes it all really worthwhile," NHS coach David Craig said.

Specifically, Craig praised Weatherly for hitting 99 of the first 100 birds in the individual finals. Only three NHS shooters have ever broke 99 targets or higher before.

"Any time you're in the top 100, you're doing really well," Craig said.

Everyone who went to nationals shot well, the coach added. On the first day, during the team qualifier for finals, all ten NHS shooters broke 90 targets or higher.

"I thought that was pretty amazing," Craig said, noting that during state, only a couple of NHS shooters scored 90 or higher.

Not everything went smoothly at nationals, however. Craig said that both teams had "a little bit of bad luck in the team competition."

Early in the tournament, Craig said the team got caught in "the middle of a brutal wind and rainstorm."

"It rained about four inches in about a half an hour," Craig said. "So, we had some bad luck as far as that, but I was really proud of the fact that they didn't succumb to that, that they stuck it out. There were some really wild targets that would do crazy things, and I'm sure it cost us a few targets."

Despite the weather problems, one NHS team still made it to the finals.

Other Oregon teams did well at nationals, too, with around 67 athletes participating in the nationals.

While Canby High School, who won first at state this year, did not make the team finals, one of their athletes, Brandon Slater, nabbed 21st in the nation, shooting 100 straight in the individual finals and earning 196 overall. COURTESY PHOTO: NHS - NHS coach David Craig confers with his athletes during the USA High School Clay Target League national championships last week in Michigan.

Besides Slater and Weatherly, the other Oregon athletes who broke the top 100 in the individual round were Evan Marten from Crane Union High School in 41st place and Lane Stahl from Yamhill-Carlton High School in 82nd place.

Kiera Aplanalp placed 14th out of 262 in the female division and 223rd overall.

YCHS finished in 62th place and Oregon City High School in 70th place. They were the only two other Oregon schools to beat out NHS.

To add some perspective, Craig said, more than 40,000 kids across the country participated in the clay target league this year, with only the top 400 getting invited to the finals in the individual competitions.

"We've got a good program," he said. "Almost everybody who participates comes back. We're still a young team compared to some of the other programs across the nation, because it's relatively new to Oregon, but we're starting to become established …"

Despite most of the national participants graduating this year, Craig said there's still up-and-coming talent on the team.

"You never know who's going to excel, but we've got some younger kids that really peaked at the end of the season at state," Craig said. "We've got three underclassmen that were at nationals that we expect back there next year."

He singled out Schliesleder, who placed second in the male division and third overall at state.

"We are losing a few more seniors this year than we did last year, but I think we're going to still be very, very good, Craig said."

Next year the team is gunning to earn a second state championship, the first being in 2021.

"To date, I would anticipate next year's going to be similar to this year in that it's going to be harder to make it to nationals on Newberg's team than it is in the nation," Craig said. "And that's part of what makes it so good when we get there because our kids have to compete against really good kids on their own team just to get there. Everybody on the team, we all make each other better."

One of Craig's other goals for next year is recruit more girls, as several of the six female trap shooters on the team are graduating this year.

"There's no reason that girls can't do this as well as boys as a sport, so I'm hoping to break that stereotype a little bit and get a few more high school girls to participate," Craig said, adding that there are no physical requirements that make it harder for female athletes to perform well.

"(Trap shooting) is an opportunity to do something that is unique and different," Craig said. "One of the really interesting things about trap shooting is you never know who is going to be really good at it."

"It's an opportunity for kids to participate in a sport that's unique and it might be a good fit for the people who don't really fit in anywhere, so it's a very inclusive sport."

He added that it's also the safest high school sport, with currently no documented injuries.

"It's a chance for kids to experience shooting sports and learn firearm safety and be exposed to firearms — the positive side of firearms," Craig said. "So much of this world is focused on the negative when it comes to firearms."

To learn more about the NHS trap shooting team, visit http://nhstrap.team/index.html.


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