Right on target Central shooters win L-L title, place 2nd at Individuals
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
It was a fair question for Steve Waddington to ask.
After graduating eight seniors from the previous year, Manheim Central’s rifle coach couldn’t help thinking about what laid ahead for his Barons this winter.
"It was like, ‘OK, what am I going to have?,’ and it turned out to be a really good season," Waddington said.
Indeed, it did.
With senior Mitch Saylor, junior Elizabeth Hess and senior Melody Coyne shooting the top three averages in the Lancaster-Lebanon League, Manheim Central won the regular-season championship for the second year in a row with an 11-1 record.
The Barons were hoping to make it a clean sweep at Individuals on Saturday, Feb. 9, but it was not meant to be. With Saylor, the league’s Marksman of the Year, unavailable to compete, Garden Spot edged Manheim Central by one point 986-985 for the team title.
"If I had Mitch Saylor there, I’m sure we would have had that one point," Waddington said. "But we didn’t have him. That’s OK. The big thing to me was that we won the league and the kids did very well. I’m very pleased with how it all worked out."
The Spartans Zach Garey shot a target total of 198, with four centers, to win the individual crown, just ahead of Coyne, who took home the silver with a total of 198 and one center.
"(Melody)’s a great kid, she’s really been focused this year," Waddington said. "Last year, she was focused, she did a good job last year as well, but this year I think she was just a little bit more on top of her game. She had more hundreds in matches this year than she did last year. It’s her senior year, and again, it comes with that experience. She’s going to be moving on, but she had a great run this year."
So did Hontz for that matter. One year ago at Individuals, she placed 37th with a score of 186. This season, the Central senior moved up to a sixth-place finish with a 197 and 0 centers. Manheim Township’s Andy Jones and Garden Spot’s Jalisa Zimmerman and Julia Irvin also shot 197, but they added 4, 3 and 1 centers, respectively.
"I think (the improvement) comes with some experience, that kind of thing," Waddington said. "Last year was her first time shooting Individuals, so the nerves can get to you and you can kinda get yourself worked up. I think coming back and shooting Individuals again this year, she wasn’t as rattled as much as she was last year."
Central’s other top-10 finisher was Hess, who had a 196 with 0 centers in her first year competing at Individuals to claim ninth place overall. She placed just behind Ephrata’s Nate Lapp (196-4). With a veteran group in front of her on Central’s team last year, Hess wasn’t quite able to get into any matches in 2011-12, but she came back strong this winter.
"She was one that was very close to being in the matches last year," Waddington remarked. "This year, she really showed a lot of promise and it came on real well because she took second place in All-Stars."
Hess, in fact, gave Saylor a run for his money for the top average in the league. Both finished with a 99.3 average, based on their 10 best out of 12 matches during the regular season. But Saylor edged his teammate for top honors by having a better score — by one point — from their 11th-best finishes in the season.
"Mitch ended up nudging out Elizabeth by one point, but it was very, very good to see that kind of competition between two members of my own team," Waddington said.
Coyne grabbed the third spot among All-Stars with an average of 99.1.
"Those three right there," Waddington remarked, "they really helped the team tremendously this year."
Saylor and Adam Stone both shot a 100 when Manheim Central hosted Ephrata on Jan. 15, while Hess (99), Hontz (98) and Coyne (98) finished close behind. But the Mounts fired three 100’s to pull out a 496-495 win, which ended up being the Barons’ only loss of the season.
"It was a good match," Waddington said. "I really didn’t feel bad about that loss at all. It was one of those things, like I told my kids, ‘You did your job, you did exactly what you needed to do and the cool thing about that was you made another team have to step it up to a higher level and they ended up doing it.’ Hey, you can’t hang your head down on that loss. They did their job, and if they did their job, you can’t complain."
Other finishers in the top 30 for the Barons at Individuals were Andrew Houpt (195-0), who placed 14th, Stone (193-1), who took 23rd, and Zach Waltz (192-0), who was 28th.
"It’s one of those things that (Individuals) is everything on one night," Waddington said, "so if all your kids are shooting well, you’re going to do well. And I felt about this season, as far as when we shot, we were very close. One point, when you’re talking about 1,000 points possible, and Garden Spot had a 986 and we had a 985. It’s like one point is splitting hairs. We were right there with Garden Spot. They just happened to have one more point than us." More TARGET, page B-4