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Woodland Hills, Hempfield rifle squads shoot for fundraiser to combat cancer

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Accounting for the past three WPIAL rifle championships, Hempfield and Woodland Hills are certainly rivals in team competition.

But when it comes to their fundraising efforts in combating cancer, the two teams are more than willing to join forces.

That's exactly what they did this spring. For the second year in a row, the 2014 WPIAL champion Wolverines and runner-up Spartans teamed up in the third annual cancer shootout.

“We try to get our kids to go out into the community and do some good for the community,” Hempfield coach Tom Miller said. “We're not just here to shoot, we're trying to get some recognition for the kids and the schools for their rifle programs and donate to a good cause which is why we do it. Everybody wins in this situation.”

Woodland Hills coach Mike Rodrigues added: “It's terrific. It makes us all feel good; the coaches, the kids, all of us because we are the two most vehement rivals. … The bitter rivals in the range, we come together and it's so much camaraderie.”

Initiated by Mt. Lebanon assistant rifle coach Bryan Pierce to commemorate the loss of his cousin to the disease, the event has raised more than $20,000 across the WPIAL, with Woodland Hills and Hempfield accounting for about $13,000 of that total. Area teams raised $6,395 this year as schools such as Butler and Indiana have joined, while the two rivals contributed more than $5,300.

“My kids love it,” Rodrigues said. “The Hempfield kids love it too. We have a good time with them.”

Before the event, members of the rifle teams set out to raise money in various forms. Some receive a dollar amount for each number of points they earn or for each bulls-eye they shoot, while some are given a flat rate.

The money raised by Woodland Hills and Hempfield went to the Katie Westbrooke Pediatric Cancer Fund at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, a refreshing reminder that sports can be about more than competition when a noteworthy cause is involved.

“We try and just instill in them that it's a team sport, and when we're competing against one another in the regular season, we compete to win but we can also be friends with these guys,” Miller said.

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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