By Bob Fowler,Â Roane State staff writer
CROSSVILLEâ€”These athletes are truly the nation’s top guns.
The Roane State Community College Shooting Sports Team won the national championship among community colleges in a competition that measures marksmanship with shotguns.
It was a quick march to the top for the team. The Roane State squad came into existence three years ago and placed third nationwide then. Last year, Roane State’s sharpshooters captured second place.
A reception for the team will be held Wednesday, November 15, at 5 p.m. CST at Roane State Cumberland County campus, 2567 Cook Road in Crossville.
To win nationally, “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication as well as a lot of years of experience in practice and competition,” said Kenneth Carey, the volunteer head coach. Assistant coaches are Kevin Hembree and James Wattenbarger.
Kenneth Carey said when he pitched the idea of a shooting sports team to Roane State officials three years ago, “I told them I’d be disappointed if we didn’t have a national championship in a few years.”
This year’s Roane State Raiders squad includes Andy Carey, Nathan Hembree, Nathan Wattenbarger, Codey Dean, and Ty McCaskey. Dean and McCaskey are from White County, while the other teammates are Cumberland County residents.
The competition in the Scholastic Clay Target Program took place October 28-30 in Marengo, Ohio. More than 200 athletes from 14 states and 21 colleges competed.
In the competition, participants showcase their sharpshooting skills with shotguns by taking aim at machine-propelled clay discs sent in a variety of paths, from intersecting in midair to mimicking scampering rabbits.
The Roane State team bested other top-drawer collegiate shooters while all the squads also battled the elements. Carey said short-sleeve weather greeted the squads on the first two days.
But by Saturday, competitors shot in a cold rain that turned to sleet before it started snowing. On the final day, the high was 34 degrees with a crosswind of 12 to 15 mph, Carey said.
The Raiders also won first place in trap shooting, second place in skeet shooting, and first place in sporting clay shooting. That last event, Carey said, “is almost like golfing with a shotgun” with the clay disc targets zooming off in a variety of directions from differing stations.
Dean was third overall in skeet shooting against all other college athletes, while Andy Carey was 12th-highest individual in trap shooting and runner-up nationally in the “Last Man Standing” event. In that competition, students vie against competitors in elimination rounds. Two other Roane State athletes were in the top five of the Last Man Standing competition: McCaskey (third) and Nathan Hembree (fifth).
Training for the Roane State shooters starts in April and continues until the national competition at the end of October.
While in practice, team members spend about five hours a week shooting. That doesn’t count the time spent going to and from target ranges in Cumberland County, Sweetwater, and Nashville.
“All of the athletes have been practicing at least eight to 12 years,” Carey said. “They have to be dedicated. Most of them have jobs while going to school. They and their parents are paying the bulk of what it costs to practice.”
The Scholastic Clay Target Program is part of the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, and retailer MidwayUSA and the National Rifle Association help sponsor the competitions.
More information will be added as itÂ becomes available.
This story and photo were submitted by Owen Driskill.
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