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Champions

Warren County stands tall at Clay Target Nationals

Above are the Warren County Claybusters’ first-place Varsity Division champions. From the left are Reid Scott, Jaxon Gray, Rowdy Finch, Garrett Mitchell and Nick Lapinski.

COLUMBUS — One by one Saturday afternoon, members of the Warren County Claybusters were called to a stage at the Corry Rod & Gun Club.

Awards were presented.

Photos were taken.

And supporters of the high schoolers from Sheffield, Warren, Tidioute and Corry showed their appreciation with extended applause.

They sure had plenty to celebrate.

Above are the Warren County Claybusters’ first-place Handicap Open squad. From the left are Jaxon Gray, McKenzie Mitchell, Tyler Hasbrouck, Tate Tasker and Joey Donato.

After a week-long stay in Marengo, Ohio, site of the Scholastic Clay Target National Championships earlier this month, the Claybusters returned to northwest Pennsylvania with three team division titles and an individual crown, leaving head coach Sherry Anderson in “awe.”

“Especially at this time when everything is so uncertain,” she said.

Forced to juggle practice schedules in order to adhere to state-mandated COVID-19 protocols, the teenagers nevertheless persevered.

“We took five kids at a time,” Anderson said. “They came and they shot, then they’d leave and then we’d schedule the next five to come, so no one was together.”

Despite the many late nights, the group of 30 youngsters “came together” at just the right time, claiming the organization’s second national championship in four years at the Cardinal Shooting Center, located 30 miles north of Columbus, Ohio.

“I thought it could happen, watching the kids shoot,” said Anderson, who has been the Claybusters’ head coach since 2010. “I figured if they did what they do here at home, there was no issue; we would take it.”

Seized it was more like it.

Consider:

¯ Joey Donato and Nick Lapinski were named to the all-state team.

¯ Donato claimed the Varsity Division individual title and was the recipient of a Browning scholarship after posting a 99-100-199. Ironically, he had never posted such numbers before, even in practice.

Times Observer Photo by Scott Kindberg This sign was hung at the Corry Rod & Gun Club to celebrate the Warren County Claybusters’ success at the national tournament.

“Joey just came out of nowhere,” Anderson said. “Just all of a sudden. He had been shooting with us and kept saying, ‘I’ll never see that 100.’ That day he was shooting (at nationals) it was like, ‘Where did he come from?’ He was a whole different person out on that line.”

¯ Donato was also a member of the first-place Handicap Open squad that also included McKenzie Mitchell, Jaxon Gray, Tate Tasker and Tyler Hasbrouck.

¯ The team of Lapinski, Gray, Reid Scott, Rowdy Finch and Garrett Mitchell captured the Single Varsity title.

¯ And the squad of Lapinski, Hasbrouck, Gray, Finch and Chance Chase came home with the High School Division title.

“It’s amazing what these kids can do,” Anderson said. ” … We had so many personal bests over the week, so many that we couldn’t tell them all. Every kid put their heart right into it.”

Times Observer Photo by Scott Kindberg From the left are all-state team members Joey Donato and Nick Lapinski. Donato also earned a Varsity first place and a Browning scholarship.

Other members of the Claybusters include: Nathan Shirey, Jacob Swartzfager, Caleb Ace, Blake Mitchell, Oakley Terrill, Rebekah Finch, Randy Love, Chris Maker, Abbie Northrop, Shelby Proctor, Derrick Albers, Michael Stanbro, Michael Pierson, Zeke Harkins, DJ Stine, Kael Albers and Wesley Love.

“They’ve been given an opportunity of a lifetime. They just don’t realize it yet,” said Tiona resident and program supporter Sam Carlson at the end of the awards presentation. “That program just took off. … Stand up. C’mon, everybody stand up. Congratulations.”

The team members got out of their chairs to another round of applause.

Times Observer photos by Scott Kindberg Above are the Warren County Claybusters’ first-place High School Division champions. From the left are Rowdy Finch, Nick Lapinski, Jaxon Gray, Tyler Hasbrouck and Chance Chase.

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