By Chad Robert Snyder
Pilot staff writer
Saturday afternoon, the Kalmiopsis gym was brimming with children hoping to advance in the Elks' annual Hoop Shoot event.
A total of 17 local youths ages 8 to 13 succeeded in advancing to the next level by finishing in the top three of their divisions. Scoring for the event was based on the most made shots out of a possible 15.
In the age 8 to 9 bracket, Taylor Jones finished first for the girls, going eight-of-15 from the line. For the boys, Joe Johnson was first with 14, Cody Testa second with 13 and Torrence Stearling third with 12.
The accuracy of the youngest shooters was a surprise, even for third-year organizer Sam Vitale.
"Joey Johnson's shooting was amazing," he said, as an example. "For his age, he is really great."
For the age 10-11 group, Iva Hart placed first after a tie-breaker against Cassidy Freels, who was second. Kay Lee Gorman finished third with four made shots.
In the boys 10-11, Omar Leal narrowly defeated Fernando Villa in another tie-breaker. After Leal and Villa was an undecided tie between Shaan Amin and Josh Gruden for third place.
The age 12-13 girls bracket ended with Josey Blazebrook in first with 10 made shots, Courtney Kay, second with 9, and Jordyn Keys in third with 7.
For the boys, Donnie Cooper clinched first after a tie-breaker with Justin Murray. Izak Ehlers finished third.
As Vitale said, this year's event was a rousing success.
"It was a great turnout," he said. "We couldn't have asked for anything more."
According to Vitale, the happiness of the participants was obvious.
"The kids' attitude was great," he said. "They were all smiling and having fun."
The 17 top-three finishers move on the the district meet in January. The date, time and location have yet to be announced.