Allatoona riflery team takes its shots at state title
by Carlton D. White
April 25, 2014 04:01 AM | 2127 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Allatoona became the first Cobb school to win a state riflery championship, led by, from left, coach Kirk Ware, Addison Helbling, Ann Clay, Tommy Simrill and Alana Kelly.
<Br>Photo special to the MDJ
Allatoona became the first Cobb school to win a state riflery championship, led by, from left, coach Kirk Ware, Addison Helbling, Ann Clay, Tommy Simrill and Alana Kelly.
Photo special to the MDJ
Allatoona has enjoyed plenty of athletic success in the six years the school has been open.

The Buccaneer program can count a girls soccer state championship, as well as state runner-up finishes for the softball and wrestling teams.

Less than two weeks ago, Allatoona added another state title to its trophy case when the air rifle team captured the championship at Fort Benning.

The Buccaneers, who have claimed five Area 7 championships in six seasons, and have placed at the state meet the past three years, defeated 14 other teams to take home the title. Allatoona set a new state-record team score of 1,162 points, beating out Upson-Lee (1,153) and Lumpkin County (1,152), among others.

Allatoona is the only Cobb County school to have ever won a state title in riflery, a sport first sanctioned by the Georgia High School Association in 1944.

The Buccaneers’ team at Fort Benning included Alana Kelly (296 points), Ann Clay (292), Tommy Simrill (290) and Addison Helbling (284). Kelly also won top individual honors with a score of 396.6.

“The team was doing well the last couple of weeks and just hit their marks on the right day,” coach Kirk Ware said. “We placed ninth last year, 11th the year before and eighth in 2011. The entire team returned from last year, and based on how well we were shooting, I figured we’d get a top-five finish this year, but I didn’t tell them that.

“I was surprised at how well they did. I expected a great day, just not a state championship.”

Ware said there are roughly 110 air rifle teams in the GHSA, broken up into eight areas. The top six teams from each area advance to a bracketed tournament, where 14 teams then make the finals.

Riflery competitions consist of four-person squads, with each shooter required to shoot 10 times at stationary targets while sitting down, 10 times while kneeling and 10 times while standing. Each shot is worth at least 10 points, depending on how close the person is to the target, for a total of 300 points per individual and 1,200 points for the team.

The 10-meter distance to the target is the same used in college and at the Olympic level.

“We’ve been pretty successful over the years,” Ware said. “We’ve won the last five area championships, and I believe our record is 75-3 during the regular season over the last five years.

“We don’t lose much, and we’re one of the few schools in the state that’s not a ROTC-based team.”

Practice for the season begins in August, with GHSA-sanctioned matches lasting from November to March before the playoffs begin.

“I think we have the longest season of any sport,” Ware said. “It’s eight to nine months, and we average about one tournament per week.”

Kelly, a sophomore, qualified for the individual finals after setting a state record of 296 points in the qualifying round. She joined seven other top finishers for one extra round of shooting, with judges counting fractions in between the markers to get the decimal scores.

Kelly added 100.9 points to her qualifying score and beat out Apalachee’s Brandon Thomas (393.1) and Winder-Barrow’s Brianna Shelton (392.4) for medalist honors. Clay (389.2) was fifth.

“I figured either Alana or Ann would be near the top,” Ware said. “Alana is full of natural talent, so I’m not surprised she won. She had that talent the first day she came in as a freshman, and her scores have been taking off ever since.

“Right after state, she left and spent days in Colorado Springs, Colo., competing in the Junior Olympics and did well there. It will be good to have her and Tommy back, because Ann and Addison will graduate.”
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