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Hempfield rifle right on target

After the Hempfield rifle team finished second behind Woodland Hills at the WPIAL championship meet, coach Tom Miller insisted the Spartans were capable of shooting a better score.

Turns out Miller was right.

Hempfield capped its season with a first-place finish at the Pennsylvania State Scholastic Team and Individual Smallbore Rifle Championships, held the last week of February at Frazier Simplex Rifle Club in Washington.

Unlike the WPIAL meet, the state championships for rifle are held independently of the PIAA and sponsored by the Pennsylvania Rifle and Pistol Association and the NRA Foundation.

The Spartans finished with a team score of 978, which was more than second-place Woodland Hills (975) and third-place Avella (974).

"I think they got comfortable with the fact that they were shooting very well and expected it to happen. But it didn't happen," Miller said of his team's runner-up finish at the WPIAL team tournament. "They made it happen at the state level, and they need to be real proud of that."

The state meet differed slightly from the WPIAL meet in that the shooters aimed at two USA-50 targets instead of A-17s. The difference• The high-scoring areas shrink on USA-50s, scores generally drop, and the better shooters tend to shine.

One of those shooters was senior Nicole Metz, who turned in a spectacular postseason and claimed the individual state title with a score of 394.

She also shot 100-8x -- a typical A-17 score, with the "x" used to signify a bull's eye -- to help Hempfield to its second-place finish at the WPIAL team championships. Metz claimed her first individual title two days later with a score of 200-18x (and six center shots to break the tie).

"She's worked real hard for four years," Miller said of Metz. "She's been after those two titles for the past four years and was finally able to get it together. Just hard work and keeping very focused on her goals."

Joining Metz in the top 15 at the state shoot were junior Kayla Dowling (389) and sophomore Keegan Miller (388). Fellow sophomore Abbie Bache placed 20th with a score of 384.

In the team competition -- which keeps the top five scores as opposed to the eight at the WPIAL meet -- Andrew Yasenosky led the way at 198. Metz shot 197, Keegan Miller 195, and Dave Robinson and Trent Thomas were at 194.

The state championship is the first for Hempfield, which placed second in 2010, the same year it won its only WPIAL team title. Metz also became the first Hempfield shooter to capture a WPIAL or state individual championship.

"They didn't like falling short of the WPIAL title," Miller said. "Their desire to win the state championship ... I think it was more to prove to themselves that they were the best team, as opposed to proving anything to anybody else. They had something to prove, and they went there and did that."

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