STEADY hands and a keen eye have helped Terang College student James Hayden earn the title of best schoolboy marksman in south-west Victoria.
James, 17, claimed overall high gun honours at the Victorian Clay Target Association (VCTA) south-west zone school championships at Noorat Gun Club yesterday.
He hit 19/20 during the qualifying rounds and nailed 30 consecutive targets in the shoot-off to finish with a sublime 49/50.
Marion College’s Thomas Pilgrim was runner-up with 48/50.
James, a Noorat Gun Club member, took up shooting at age 12 and has contested state and national championships.
He will head to the VCTA school championships at Bendigo on September 8 with hopes of turning regional glory into a state title.
James said he shot “pretty well today, apart from the one I missed”. He said the social aspect of shooting was the main appeal of the sport.
“You meet heaps of people and you get to travel heaps of places,” he said.
VCTA president Malcolm Dyson said 310 students competed at Noorat, making the event the biggest zone championships in Victoria.
Students hailed from 18 schools, stretching from Warrnambool to Geelong and up to Ararat and Ballarat.
“This year has been the best one I’ve been involved with and I’ve been involved for the last 10 years now,” Dyson said.
“Clay target shooting is becoming quite popular. The schools are supporting it and the clay target clubs are running the coaching and education.
“It’s rewarding to have a day like this with 18 schools and over 300 students.”
Thomas’ runner-up finish also earned him the senior boys’ title from Ballarat Grammar’s Liam Headon (33/35) and Brauer College’s Brayden Perry (27/30).
Monivae College’s Tahlia Nagorka was the senior girls’ champion with 19/20, the only female competitor who finished with the score.
Newcomb Secondary College’s Amie Donald (17/20) was runner-up while Ballarat High School’s Tess Lloyd (20/25) was third in a shoot-off.
Marion College’s Sam Pilgrim took the junior boys’ honours with 18/20. Sam edged out Mercy Regional College’s Thomas Justin (21/25) and Brauer College’s Nathan McCosh (20/25).
Hamilton and Alexandra College’s Sara Kosch showed off her potential by winning the junior girls’ section with 16/20.
Sara hit one more target than Damascus College’s Ashlee Flintoff (15/20), with Emmanuel College’s Delaney Foster (18/25) third.