Hempfield captures 2nd straight WPIAL rifle championship
For the second straight season, the Hempfield rifle team fended off all comers to emerge as WPIAL champion.
The Spartans accrued a team score of 800-62x to nail down first place in the championship event held at the Dormont-Mt. Lebanon Sportsman Club in Canonsburg. The victory represents their second title in as many seasons, but their first with coach Jason Wilkinson at the helm as he took over the lead role this year.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without my assistant coaches, Tom Miller and Pat Valenti. But I told these kids from the beginning that they had the capability if they gave it their all. I also told them that if they give it their all and somebody else has a better day, I’d still be happy for them,” Wilkinson said.
“The talent on this team — they had it in them, there’s no doubt. We have seven seniors on this team, six of them shot today, but the way that they were with the underclassmen, helping bringing them along all year, it was phenomenal.”
Kayla Brownfield, Charidan Updyke and Levi Dunn tied for the team lead for Hempfield, shooting scores of 100-9x. Finishing close behind, Emily Thomas and Meredith Martz shot 100-8x to bolster their team’s score. Lydia Dunn hit for 100-7x, and Amanda Hardman and Grace Snyder each shot 100-6x to round out the team’s top-eight scores for the event. Reserves Nolan Tumulty (99-2x) and Kyl McKelvey (98-6x) also shot for the Spartans.
While Wilkinson praised each one of his athletes, he gave credit in particular to the Dunn twins and Hardman, each of whom performed well under pressure despite being ninth graders.
“We had three freshmen shoot on the team today, and all of them held their composure,” Wilkinson said.
“That was the difference — those three freshmen holding it together today, because if one of them dropped a point anywhere along the way, it’s a different result for us.”
The championship trophy marks Hempfield’s fourth in school history, each of which has been earned since 2010.
This one, however, earns special status according to Tomas, a senior co-captain.
“It feels so much better to win it this year. Part of it is because we’re seniors, and I also don’t think we expected it to be like last year. We have a new coach. We lost a lot of varsity kids from last year. A lot changed. So, this win feels big,” Thomas said.
Brownfield, also a co-captain said there was one particular point in the season where she started to believe another championship was in the cards for Hempfield, which finished 7-1 in section competition.
“When we beat Butler at the end of the season to split the section title, it felt like we were really finishing strong,” Brownfield said. “It was our very last match, and it just started to feel like, yeah, it could be a championship year.”
Trinity earned second-place with a score of 799-54x to edge Butler, which shot 798-65x.
Waynesburg beat out Bethel Park in a tiebreak to place fourth, with both teams scoring 797-65x. Waynesburg had the edge in the tiebreak, 896-72x to 896-70x.
The top four teams advance to the PIAA championships. The WPIAL individual championships are set for Thursday.
Kevin Lohman is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.