On Friday, July 14, and Saturday, July 15, 700 trap shooters converged at the 83 million dollar Clark County Shooting Complex for the Youth Shooting Sports National Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Lassen Grizzly Claybreakers decided to send a five-man team to compete against teams from all over the United States.
The Grizzlies decided to call it the “Breaking Clays for Clay Tour” in honor of teammate Clay Cagle, who was tragically lost in a June car accident. California Youth Shooting Sports Association adult volunteer Brandie Mallery had special t-shirts made for the coach and team to wear at the event.
Clay was part of the 2016 “Vegas 5” team, which also included Justin Giusti, Wyatt Bollinger, Noah Jones and Garrett Mallery, who brought home the second place trophy to Lassen High School.
Las Vegas was a 200-target event, with a possible team score of 1,000.
The team was led by varsity team captain Jones, who smoked 99 targets on Friday and backed it up with another 99 on Saturday for a total score of 198.
Next was Joe Winfrey, who shot a 97 on Friday and a 96 on Saturday, for a score of 193.
Third for the Claybreakers was Carson Chavez, who shot a 92-91 for a total score of 183.
Next, Garrett Mallery shot a 94-86, for a score of 180 and Hunter Smith rounded out the team, shooting an 84-88 for a score of 172 clays broken.
The team score was 926 out of 1,000, which wasn’t good enough to place at the Vegas shoot. However, coach Phil Giusti said, “I couldn’t have been prouder of my guys. We were already the underdogs going down with only five shooters, (some teams had 30-50 kids) and my boys really wanted to do this shoot to honor teammate Clay Cagle.”
Giusti continued, “You know I didn’t have a fifth shooter, so I asked Hunter Smith to step up and shoot with the varsity squad, who are all older than Smith, but I knew he could handle the pressure. While he didn’t shoot his normal scores, I was also getting him ready for the great things to come.”
The highlight of the trip was the awards ceremony at the Aliante Hotel. Before they handed out a single trophy, CYSSA President Dave Tanner keyed the mike and spoke a few words before requesting a moment of silence for Clay Cagle.
There were more than 1,000 people in attendance, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the building.
“Even though we did not win any awards, that made the trip worthwhile,” coach Giusti said. “Next year I would like to bring a varsity squad and a JV squad to Vegas; it is an event that will stay in the kids’ minds forever.”
Giusti said, “It is a very expensive trip, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of the people of Lassen County, many of whom attended our car wash at Tractor Supply prior to the trip.”
In honor of Clay Cagle, the team is planning on creating a perpetual Memorial trophy that will be awarded to the student who shoots the most competition scores of 90 or higher, as that is what “Claygle” did best.