'Awesome!' Scholastic shooters strike silver at national sporting clay championship

Teddy Hutchison, 11, of Rock Hill reloads a shotgun while shooting sporting clays in April in Chester County.
Teddy Hutchison, 11, of Rock Hill reloads a shotgun while shooting sporting clays in April in Chester County.

They're called rookies, but a trio of Rock Hill kids is proving that some seasoned marksmen haven't reached the sixth grade.

Teddy Hutchison, Seth Roddey and Jeffrey Eberspeaker placed second in the Scholastic Clay Target Program's national championship last week in Sparta, Ill.

"Awesome!" 11-year-old Seth said of his team's success. "But (I) probably wish we would've shot better."

Still, taking second in a national contest?

"That is kind of hard to believe," he said.

The boys are members of the Rocky Creek Clay Dusters, a local team of elementary, middle and high school students who compete in sporting clay events.

In these challenges, sporting clays are used to simulate hunting situations: Rabbits dashing through a field, ducks approaching a pond or quail being flushed into the air. Like golfers playing the back nine, shooters at a sporting clay course walk to each shooting station.

The national event drew 2,100 shooters from 35 states, including eight teams in the young Clay Dusters' division.

Because of their ages, Teddy, Seth and Jeffrey shot at the so-called rookie level.

Don't be fooled by the label. Seth, for example, started going to the woods with his dad when he was 6. When he was 7, he dropped his first deer and his first turkey.

"That's his thing," said his father and rookie coach Ken Roddey. "I would go hunting with him before I would go hunting with an adult that hasn't been out as much as he has."

The only true "rookie" on the team is Jeffrey, who had never picked up a shotgun until about 7 months ago, when two team dads recruited the essential third member of the team.

"Rookie teams are few and far between," Ken Roddey said. "Most people don't look at their kids at 10 years old to be shooting 20-gauge shotguns. ... But these kids are as safe as anybody."

Like Seth, Teddy has been shooting for years. During nationals, his 20-gauge Beretta 391 knocked down more clay than any other rookie.

But the competition isn't based on an individual's performance. Each boy fired at 100 targets on Saturday and another 100 on Sunday. For every piece of clay shattered, the shooter received 1 point. The combined totals over two days determined how a team fared.

The young Clay Dusters knocked down 358 sporting clays, 5 behind the first-place team from Mississippi.

"We're haunted by five targets," said Chip Hutchison, Teddy's father.

But bringing home the silver medal from a national contest didn't bother the boys.

"We were all jumping around," Teddy said of the team's reaction to the score. "I had to call all my aunts and uncles and grandparents."

"I anticipated we would do well," Chip Hutchison said. "But I didn't think we would actually get, like, second or get even close to even look at first place."

Coach Roddey, though, knows his boys could have won. "They've shot better than that in the past," he said. "I think the stress of the first day and the difficulty of the targets kind of got to them a little bit."

The boys better get used to the nerves. All three will move up to an older division next year, and they'll have to go up against sharp-shooting eighth-graders.

But even if they don't win it all, they'll still have fun.

"I just really enjoy shooting my shotgun," Seth said. "A lot."