JACKSONVILLE, Ark.-(Ammoland.com)- Student athletes from across Arkansas will gather at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex in Jacksonville each weekend, beginning April 28, to take their shots at the regional and state championship tournaments of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program.
“We hold all the regional qualifiers and the state championship at the Jacksonville range,” said Chuck Woodson, AYSSP coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “But a lot of work goes on with these teams at ranges all around the state.”
AYSSP is a program of the AGFC to familiarize young Arkansans with the shooting sports, firearms safety and the joys of the outdoors. Student athletes compete using 20- or 12-gauge shotguns, hitting clays thrown from trap machines that throw targets at unknown angles.
All participants must take and pass Hunter Education as part of their training and participate in at least five practice sessions with a certified coach before attending regional qualifiers.
“Some of our teams have been shooting together for years, and may have as many as 50 practice sessions together at a local range before the regionals,” Woodson said. “Others may not be able to meet as much, but still do very well once they step up to their shooting stations.”
It has only been 11 years since Woodson scheduled the very first state meet for the program at Remington Gun Club in Lonoke. Even in its first year, he knew the program was going to be a winner.
“We had 125 coaches and just over 900 student athletes show up that first year,” Woodson said. “Now we regularly instruct more than 825 coaches that teach close to 6,000 students each year in safe firearms handling and the thrill of competitive shooting. We even have a new facility to shoot at, thanks to the (Arkansas Game and Fish) Foundation.”
According to Woodson, more than 50,000 young Arkansans have gone through the program in the last 11 years. There’s even more room to grow.
Each regional qualifier consists of two days of shooting. Junior division shooter (grades 6 through 8) will compete on Fridays. Senior division shooters (grades 9-12) will shoot on Saturdays. The top 16 squads from each region will advance to the state tournament. The state championship follows a bracket-style, single-elimination format with squads competing head to head until the final champions are crowned.
Dates for regional qualifiers and state championship are as follows:
North Regional Qualifier:
- April 28 – Junior Division
- April 29 – Senior Division
West Regional Qualifier:
- May 5 – Junior Division
- May 6 – Senior Division
South Regional Qualifier:
- May 12 – Junior Division
- May 13 – Senior Division
East Regional Qualifier:
- May 19 – Junior Division
- May 20 – Senior Division
- June 2 – Junior Division Championship
- June 3 – Senior Division Championship
Visit their website for more information on how to get your child or school involved in shooting sports.