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Smokn’ Guns compete at AIM championship

About 3,000 young people descended on the World Shooting and Recreation Complex in Sparta, Ill., July 26-30 for the 2019 AIM Grand Championships. Among them were 20 young people, plus their parents and coaches, from Cedar Hill Trap Range in Russellville.

Trap range owner and team head coach Wade Willingham said the Cedar Hill Smokn’ Guns took the largest group to nationals they have had in eight or nine years.

“We did real well,” said Willingham. “We had three of our Pre Subs who won trophies.”

Winning trophies for their finishes were Nathan Richardson, Pre Sub Class C runner-up and 2019 All-Star Team; Davis Lindsey,  Pre Sub Class D champion in Doubles; and Luke Peden, Pre Sub fifth place overall in Handicaps.

The Smokn’ Guns’ 20 competitors divided into four-person squads for team competition. Willingham said their first Junior squad came in fourth place, and the other Junior squad snagged seventh. The team’s Sub Junior squad took eighth. 

“They did great,” said Willingham, who shares coaching duties with Todd Richardson, who also happens to be the Alabama AIM director. “Most of the kids shot their personal best up there this year. We had some really good scores – just not quite good enough. But it’s like I told them, ‘If you go out on that line and give me 100 percent, I don’t care how many (targets) you hit – I’m proud of you.’ I was extremely proud of all of them this year.”

Levi Baker was among those who shot his personal best at the Grand. The Sub Junior said he was more comfortable this year, after competing at the Grand for the first time last year. “It’s hard to describe,” Baker said. “Competition doesn’t bother me. The best part about it is joking around with your teammates.”

Richardson said he enjoyed the time off work to just enjoy shooting and being with his friends. “I’ve always enjoyed shooting,” he said. “It just makes me happy … It’s fun when you win.”

Being in the company of their teammates is a common reason many of the shooters said they enjoyed competing at the Grand – and enjoy trapshooting enjoy. The 20 competitors spent plenty of time together leading up to the national contest. 

“Lots and lots of practice,” said team member Jackson Mitchell. “We would normally shoot around 150 rounds every Tuesday night.”