Members of Greene County 4H Shooting Sports team excel in regional competition
Left to right, Haywood Porter, Parker Johnson, Aubrey Beddard, Jack Braxton and Reid Grady.
COLUMBIA - The Greene County 4H Shooting Sports team nearly became an afterthought four years ago.
The participation level had significantly dropped, finances were depleted and previous club organizers opted to disband the program.
April and Jon Wiggins stepped in. Through donations and raffles, they've helped resuscitate the program and give kids in the area who are not interested in ball-related sports an opportunity to display their skills.
The fruits of their labor paid off in remarkable fashion recently during the North Carolina Shooting Sports Eastern Regional. Seven team members qualified with top-five efforts in three disciplines - archery, shotgun, and air pistol.
Reid Grady claimed the gold medal in Senior Archery and received the Sportsmanship Award. Parker Johnson emerged as the regional runner-up in Junior Archery and fourth in Junior Air Pistol. Aubrey Beddard punched her second straight ticket to states with a runner-up performance in Junior Shotgun.
Haywood Porter secured fourth place in a sudden-death shootout in Junior Shotgun. Tanner Holloman claimed fifth in Junior Archery. Jack Braxton and Addison Beaman qualified in Junior Archery and Junior Air Pistol, respectively.
One year ago, Grady shot 174 out of a possible 200 points in regional action. This time, he shot an almost perfect 195 out of 200. The Greene Central sophomore credited his success to new coach Sterling Pippin, who helped improve his technique and bow grip during lengthy backyard practices away from the team's normal practice range in Hookerton.
"I think the Sportsmanship Award [was the biggest surprise considering] all the kids that were there," Reid said. "Archery was a good picker-upper. I practiced a lot and when I came to the competition, I wanted to do better than last year and I did.
"The competition level was good. There's always someone that shines, and someone who comes out of nowhere and does well. There were right many good shooters there."
Beddard and Porter not only battled their fellow shooters but also breezy conditions that changed the dynamic of the one-round competition. Each took five shots at five different positions on the Junior Shotgun range.
An avid wildlife hunter, Beddard also overcame a case of nerves.
"[The wind] affected me because it makes [the clay pigeon] do all of these funny dances and stuff, and from five different positions it looks really different," said Beddard, who successfully took down 18 of 25 targets.
"[The wind] makes [the clay pigeon] do a different thing ... go higher, lower or even faster and you have to get there on it more quickly. That was challenging."
A seventh-grader at Contentnea-Savannah School, Porter shared third place with a score of 17 after his round. He missed his lone shot in sudden death and ended up fourth.
"When I first got there and watched the other shooters, it looked a little bit [tough]," Porter said. "Once I figured it out, I stepped into a groove. When you get up there, you have to hope for the best. There was a lot that I missed because of the wind.
"Each year, I've pushed myself to get better and shoot more. I've used the same shotgun the whole time."
A sixth-grader at Greene County Middle, Johnson scored 182 out of 200 during the archery competition. He posted a 77 during the indoor air pistol event.
"I'm pretty happy," Johnson said.
Greene County competed against at least 20 other teams from eastern and northeastern North Carolina during the one-day affair.
The state meet is Sept. 21 in the Pinehurst area.