Members of Upshur County's Air Rifle Team, pictured here, all finished in the top 20 at the state individual tournament, which took place Saturday, Feb. 15.

Right on target: Upshur County’s senior air rifle team takes top spot in state tourney

BUCKHANNON – Buckhannon-Upshur’s 4-H Senior Air Rifle Team has something to brag about – they recently snagged the top spot at the WVU 4-H State Individual Tournament.

The WVU 4-H State Individual Tournament took place Saturday, Feb. 15, and Upshur County’s senior air rifle team earned first in the state. But that’s not all – Upshur County’s own Olivia Caynor placed fourth in the state on the individual level, which means she will compete in nationals in Nebraska in June.

Coach Russ Warner explained the state competition determines which four students from each state go forward to nationals.

“We did the regional qualifier back in January, and the regional qualifiers decide the state champion as far as teams, and then they take the top 20 seniors out of all the regionals and the top 10 juniors out of all the regionals,” Warner said. “You get 10 juniors and 20 seniors out the state that competed Feb. 15 for the state individual championship.”

During the regional contest, Upshur County’s two teams placed first and fourth.

“This year we chose to do three shooters on a team because we had two fairly decent groups of kids, and then I shot two kids as individuals,” Warner said. “The two teams did really well and got first and fourth in the state.”

The top team was comprised of Clint Crites, Olivia Caynor and Ryan Bosley.

“They did a fantastic job,” Warner said.

He said when the team was practicing the day before the tournament, they all shot their personal best, so he knew they would do well.

“Olivia Caynor is a senior, so I am just tickled she placed in the top four in the state,” Warner said. “She’ll be our first kid ever to go to the Nationals scoring in the top four.”

Overall, the senior team had six members place in the top 20 in the state. Olivia Caynor placed fourth with an overall score of 477, Clint Crites placed sixth with an overall score of 467, Ryan Bosley placed eighth with an overall score of 463, Dani Hovis placed 15th with an overall score of 411, Samuel Canter placed 16th with an overall score of 388 and Breanna Morgan placed 17th with an overall score of 387.

The junior-level team placed third in the state, and two juniors qualified to compete in the individual competition Feb. 15.

“We had two kids qualify for the junior division, and that was Leah Bennett and Ryleigh Jeffries,” Warner said. “They both shot their personal best at the individual tournament. Jeffries shot a 455 and Leah shot a 478.”
Warner said he anticipates the high school team will only improve. That’s because they’re only losing one shooter this year since Caynor is graduating.

So, exactly how does the sport of air rifle work anyway? In an air rifle competition, individuals are given a certain number of pellets to shoot at a target in three different positions – standing, kneeling and prone. The closer to the center of the targets, the more points that person racks up.

And Warner said his crew is determined to rack them up.

“All my kids, on the archery team too, are incredibly driven,” Warner said. “You give them a goal, and they will do anything to meet that goal because they hate to lose. I keep telling them, ‘it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about setting personal goals and team goals.’”

He said at the beginning of the season, they had about 30 team members and now it is at about 16 shooters.

“This group of freshmen that I have are just self-driven,” he said. “They’re a fantastic group of kids, and I look forward to good things with the high school program over the next three years for archery and air rifle.”

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