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Arkansas youths capture multiple national shooting sports titles

LINN CREEK, MO — COVID-19 may have caused the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to cancel its regional and state championship trap tournaments during the summer, but Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program participants still showed their stuff at this year’s Grand National Academics Integrity Marksmanship (AIM) Program Shoot at the Grand American Trap Shoot held Aug. 4-14.

The shoot divided the more than 1,100 participants from all over the country into four age categories: Pre-Sub 11 and younger), Sub-Jr. (12-14), Junior (15-17) and Junior Gold (18-22). Arkansas shooters took two of the four national team championships available in the shoot.

“We had a team (Shoot Happens) from Cabot and Conway take the overall junior team championship and Black River Mini Blasters from Corning won the overall Pre-Sub division,” said Jimmy Self, who coordinates AYSSP for the AGFC as well as coordinating Arkansas’s AIM program. “In all, we ended up with eight team trophies and more than 35 individual trophies going to Arkansas youth who participate in AYSSP. It’s amazing.”

Among the individual winners, two Arkansans performed well enough to earn scholarships for their efforts. AYSSP shooters Katie Clifton and Dylan Watters each received $2,500 scholarships through the program for academic excellence and integrity displayed throughout the year. Clifton also received the ATA hall of fame scholarship for $5,000.

“I don’t remember Arkansas ever having as much representation at the event as it did this year,” Self said. “We had 116 shooters who participate in AYSSP make the leap to the AIM nationals at Linn Creek this year.”

AYSSP is an AGFC program aimed at bringing the joy of the outdoors and the rewards of safely learning to shoot firearms to young Arkansans. The program focuses on shotgun sports, specifically trap shooting. Participants range from grades 6-12. The season begins February 1 and ends in July each year with a series of regional meets and a state championship.