LONG BEACH - Last Saturday the Long Beach Elks Lodge sponsored for the "umpteenth" year the annual Hoop Shoot at Long Beach School, according to Hoop Shoot director Craig Hawkinson.
"I've been doing the Hoop Shoot for eight years and I'm not sure how long it was going before that," Hawkinson said of the event.
South Pacific County youngsters from Naselle and the Peninsula begin by competing in school physical education classes and progress to the Hoop Shoot.
The boys and girls compete in three age groups (8-9 year olds, 10-11, and 12-13 brackets) at making free throws. Each participant takes five practice tosses with the basketball, then 25 shots for real, with judges watching and scorekeepers writing their every make and miss.
Should there be a tie among competitors, rounds of five free tosses each occur until a winner is eventually named. A crowd of approximately 100 people observed the 50 shooters Saturday.
Winners from the local event move on to district at Huntington Junior High School in Kelso on Jan. 25. From there the winners proceed to state, regional, and national competition. Tanner Ketel made it all the way to nationals several years back and is the only local competitor to have reached that lofty level thus far.
This year Alexia Wirkkala, Brenden Greenfield, Desmin Wirkkala, Justin Short, Felecia Faggard, and Matt Kaino will take their foul shooting skills to Kelso and if they cannot compete for any reason, the runners up will try their best at the Elks District Hoop Shoot.
Bob Bonney, Exalted Ruler of the LB Elks, and Leading Knight, Fred Molsby, also helped Hawkinson with the event. Other judges, scorekeepers, and rebounders include Barb and Henry Evans, Eleanor Stanley, Dan Fithen, Matt Bonney, Don Zeurn, and April Hawkinson. Each participant received a certificate and the top three finishers in each of the six divisions were awarded handsome trophies.
The Elks Hoop Shoot is a competition where literally every 8 to 13 year old in America has the opportunity to become a national champion. Hawkinson, who has seen somewhere around 12,000 free throws tossed in his eight years as director, said, "It's a lot of fun for the Elks and for the kids."
1 - Alexia Wirkkala
2 - Nicole Tarabochia
3 - Kirinda Brisby
1 - Brenden Greenfield
2 - Francisco Galvan
3 - Christopher Schommer
1 - Desmin Wirkkala
2 - Kenzi Wirkkala
1 - Justin Short
2 - Patrick Whealdon
3 - Kyle Mullins
1 - Felecia Faggard
2 - Nicole Smith
3 - Kelsey Fletcher
1 - Matt Kaino
2 - Jack Whealdon
3 - Colby Kirby