Local youth shotgun team excels in national competition

The Unaka Shooters had a fantastic season. The youth shotgun team cleaned up at the state tournament, as evidenced by all the medals and trophies, and advanced to the national event where they brought home more awards.

By Dave Ongie, Managing Editor

Far away from the bright lights and roaring crowds that greet youth athletes in some sports you’ll find others who excel in relative obscurity.

The Unaka Rod & Gun Club is home to a team most folks in Johnson City don’t even know exists. However, the Unaka Shooters, a youth shotgun team, made their presence known this summer by winning at the state level and qualifying for the national event in Columbus, Ohio.

Shane McCown, head coach of the Unaka Shooters, was thrilled with the way his team performed both at the state level and on the national stage. Unaka’s intermediate team – comprised of Jacob Sexton, Reed McCown, Lawson Frizzell, Jared Watson, Cole Casey, Grayson Cole, Scott Dunn Jr. and Gage Hutson – won the high overall main event team award at the state tournament.

“I’m very proud of the individual performances and sportsmanship that were displayed at the tournament,” McCown said. “Not only are we very proud of these athletes and their performance on the field, but the fact that they were able to do so well as a team is one of the greatest achievements we could ask of them. The coaches for the team really want to emphasize teamwork.

“We win as a team, and that is just what we did at the state competition.”

Kingston Cole, Seth Black and Eli Henry are members of the Unaka Shooters.

Sexton was the intermediate grand champion in American skeet at the state level and finished runner-up in intermediate advanced sporting clays. He went on to place third in the nation among intermediate shooters across the three main disciplines. He also finished third nationally in intermediate sporting clays.

Reed McCown, Sexton and Dunn Jr. finished fifth in the nation as a team in the intermediate American Skeet Singles while Gabe Overbey, Jackson Barr and Dunn Jr. finished fifth in the nation in the open squad American Skeet Singles. Individually, Reed McCown was second in the nation in the intermediate male American skeet doubles event.

The national event featured some very stiff competition with over 3,500 athletes from 30 states represented at the event in Ohio. It requires a lot of concentration to shoot 100 rounds in each major discipline at the state level, but the pressure is ratcheted up at nationals as shooters fire off 200 rounds in each major discipline while facing the best of the best from each state.

Jacob Sexton shows off a medal he won at the national event.

While middle school and high school athletes compete in these events, the rookie division features participants as young as 9 years old. Lauren McCown is in the rookie division, following in her brother Reed’s footsteps. This year was Lauren’s first in competition, and she finished third in rookie American skeet at the state level and fourth in the nation in the same event.

“It felt really good, especially since it was my first year,” Lauren said. “I could definitely tell that I got way better. At the beginning of the year, I had a gun that didn’t fit me right, so I wasn’t doing as well. But when I found a gun that fit me right, I got better at it.”

For all those kids out there looking for a fun and challenging sport, Lauren said the Unaka Shooters might be just what they are looking for.

“They should definitely try it,” she said. “It might be scary at first, but once you try it it’s really fun.”

Shane McCown is excited about the season and believes his team is positioned well to build on the momentum generated by the trip to the national event. He added that the support provided by the community and Unaka Rod & Gun Club is a firm foundation for the program moving forward.

“We are especially thankful to our sponsor organization, the Unaka Rod & Gun Club in Johnson City. The club has been so supportive of the athletes during practice and the events,” McCown stated. “I would also like to thank all the parents and coaches who make sure athletes have what they need to compete and thrive in this sport.”


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