Friday July 12, the Lassen Grizzly Claybreakers traveled down to Las Vegas Nevada to try their luck at the United States Youth Open Shoot, which was held at the $23 million Clark County Shooting Complex.
It was the two hottest days Vegas has seen this year, and while everyone was roasting from the heat, the Grizzlies got busy roasting targets.
This was a 200-target event with a possible squad score of 1,000.
For the varsity Wrecking Crew it was Hunter Smith wrecking 194 targets in first, followed by Jake McCart with a 191, Caleb Montgomery with 190, Wyatt Gould with 188 and varsity team captain Tyler Johnson with 187, giving the crew a squad score of 950 out of 1000.
Good enough for sixth place, only 10 targets behind first place Granite Bay that shot a 960.
The varsity “B” also shot well with Jacob Daniels crushing 193 targets, Bailey Spalding 184, Kendahl Loflin, 183, Rylee McCart, 181, and Dillon Ross 150, for a squad score of 891.
For the JV’s who were not supposed to win this year because of their small 11-person team, win they did just as they did all season.
They met their challenge head on and when the smoke cleared they were the number two team in the nation, only six targets behind the leaders, Colusa High, another California team.
The students behind the guns for the JV were Michael Cizin smoking 190 targets followed by jv team captain Will Pickens 187, Daniel Jones 181, Chase Roby 181, and Aidan Adams 180, for a squad score of 917.
Also shooting for the JV, as individuals were Alexis Pickens who crushed 180 targets, Pickens little brother Rylan 171, and Kat Baldwin with 165.
Coach Phil Giusti commented, “My varsity was winning it on Friday by three targets. I pushed hard on them on Saturday to finish strong and go out and take this win but one bad round was enough to move from first to sixth. Basically they stubbed their toe and at the US open that’s all it takes to fall behind.
Giusti continued, “I guess the heat got to them; we don’t get to practice here in Lassen for the extreme heat. But what my varsity did accomplish at the biggest shoot of the year is my varsity ‘A’ squad had a 125 round.
“That is where five shooters walk out to a 25-target sub event and every one of them shot a 25. I have only witnessed one other 125 and that was at a pro shoot a few years back.
“After the awards ceremony, I had coaches from all over the country shaking my hand and congratulating me and in all the excitement Alex Grey the coach from Woodcreek High came over and said you know Phil, I had a 125 squad last year and it took me 14 years to get it. Your Grizzlies did it in four years. After the awards were over my varsity and JV’s soon to be varsity came over to me and promised they’re going to win the US Open for me next year, and you know what, I believe they will.”
He continued, “For my JV’s, I am speechless, these are a dedicated bunch of young adults and parents who just wouldn’t give up all year. They met every single challenge head on and just wouldn’t stop until they were at the top and then won me second place at the US open.
“I told them on Friday morning before we started that they had nothing left to prove to me, and I was already as proud as I could, be of them. I told them lets just go out there for the next two days and just have fun, and we will let the chips fall where they fall, and we’ll count them when its over.
“Well just as they did all season they pushed themselves to win it and then pushed even harder and never looked back.
“I had one young lady shooter who succumbed to the heat after three rounds. It was Alexis Pickens, and her mother and I decided she was done. She could barely stand in that sweltering heat. Pickens went back to her trailer to cool off for a couple of hours and then decided she wanted to finish her last round. The officials told me they would allow it if Pickens waited until all the squads were done, and she not only shot but broke a 23. I think her courage and perseverance show what this great team stands for, and I’m proud of every single one of them as if they were my own.
“Again, the Grizzlies would like to thank the high school and the community that helped them get to Vegas in the first place, and my co coaches Nate Spalding and Rob Schrag who braved 3600 rounds with me in that hot Las Vegas heat.
Giusti finished, “The Claybreakers would also like to say a heartfelt goodbye to superintendent Bill McCabe who is retiring this July. Thank you Bill for believing in us and supporting us throughout the years. Good luck in your new life and please keep in touch.”