High School Riflery
East Coweta sets sights on GHSA state air-rifle title today
by Chris Goltermann
For the last six months, East Coweta has earned a reputation as arguably the most consistent air rifle program inside the state by going undefeated.
But the season is only defined in one performance. And today’s GHSA State Championships at Fort Benning, actually, is where it counts most.
While a lineup monopolized by under- classmen will certainly have another crack at a potential state title in 2015, the program — which has consistently placed among the top five since winning the school’s only GHSA championship in 2000 — may be ready finally experience a breakthrough should today’s efforts match those of the past month.
Coming off two playoff victories with near identical efforts of 1,155 and 1,156 (out of 1,200), respectively as well as a third-place finish at this year’s National JROTC Championships, East Coweta is among today’s favorites along with Lumpkin County — the 2012 state champions — and nearby Northside-Columbus.
East Coweta, led by Major Pete Merrill, enters today’s competition consisting of two team relays, the first of which starting around 10:55 a.m., undefeated in GHSA matches after posting a 9-0 record in Area 5. The team outdistanced a strong field for the area championship with an 1,160.
Of today’s 14 final teams, consisting of a dozen semifinal winners and two ‘wild-cards’ with the highest remaining scorers, only Lumpkin and East Coweta have fired over 1,150 in the playoffs.
East Coweta’s program, which has placed among the top-three finishers three times since 2006, is coming off a disappointing 10th place effort last spring in what was the first trip to the state championship for the majority of team members.
In addition to competing for the team trophy, juniors Glen Lauzon, Destiny Collier, Alex Wright and sophomore Jonathan Satterfield will all compete for this year’s individual crown in the GHSA after posting scores of 290 (out of 300) or better during the regular season.
Lauzon and Collier are making return trips to the GHSA Championships while it is the first for both Wright and Satterfield.
Today’s event follows the 10m 3 position format where shooters fire 20 shots in each of three positions (prone, kneeling and standing). The top eight scorers advance to a 10-shot final round with the two scores totaled to determine an individual champion.
Of the six state qualifiers out of Area 5, which included defending champion Union Grove, only Luella and Upson-Lee remains heading into today’s championship.
Union Grove, which fired an 1,147 in a first-round playoff win, was knocked off in the semifinals by Ware County in a one- point victory. The Wolverines’ score of 1,124 equally was shy of earning wild-card bids — which went to Upson-Lee (1,134) and Columbus (1,138).
Last year’s top three finishers all fired scores at 1,140 or higher led by Union Grove’s score of 1,145.
Other finalists in today’s championship match include Riverside (Area 6, No. 5 seed), Ware County (Area 3, No. 1), Allatoona (Area 7, No. 1), Parkview (Area 6, No. 2), Lee County (Area 2, No. 1), Rutland (Area 1, No. 6), Elbert County (Area 4, No. 1) and North Forsyth (Area 6, No. 3).
The Olympic range at Fort Benning, however, presents unique challenges to prior matches during the season. Unlike the regular season, tables will be used for both prone and kneeling positions, provid- ing another difficulty to be mastered in addition to targets.
Since 1997, East Coweta has seen 24 shooters selected to the Georgia Shooting Sports Association’s All-State team and has qualified for the GHSA championships in 11 of the last 13 seasons.
Lauzon is coming off a near-perfect 297 in the semifinals, which if repeated today, would trump a state record of 295 currently held by three former shooters. The Indians junior is looking to better last year’s strug-
gles in Columbus after finishing 43rd of 71 individually and had a season-best 294 during the regular season.
Lumpkin County had three shooters qualify for the individual state finals including last year’s runner up, Heather Johnson, who also has a season high of 297.
Collier led East Coweta in her first trip to the GHSA championship last year with a 291 en route to a 10th-place finish by the Indians. She finished seventh overall individually in one of the GHSA’s only sports where boys and girls compete side-by-side — and one where the girls equally dominate.
Six of the top-eight shooters inside Georgia last season were girls.
Former East Coweta All-State standout Amber Crist set the overall state record among individual scores in 2001.