Butler rifle team makes WPIALs for 1st time since 2003
By John Enrietto
Eagle Sports Editor
BUTLER TWP— Coaching? Experience? Shooting ability?
Just how did Butler's varsity rifle team find its way into the WPIAL team playoffs?
"I haven't got a clue,"fifth-year coach Eric Beveridge said. "We just had the consistency this year that I thought we were going to have last year.
"And we had some luck. You need a little luck in every sport. Rifle is no different. The scores are always so close. You can do well, but somebody may do just a little better than you."
Butler finished the regular season 11-5 overall, 7-3 in section matches, and qualified for the WPIALteam playoffs for the first time since 2003.
The WPIALhas 12 schools with rifle teams, six to a section. The top two teams in each section get together for a one-day shootoff at the Dormont/Mount Lebanon Sportsman Club.
Butler finished second to Mount Lebanon (15-1, 10-0) in its section. The top two teams from the other section are Trinity (15-1, 9-1) and Avella (9-7, 7-3). The shootoff is at 1 p.m. today.
"One match for all the marbles,"Beveridge said "The team that shoots the best wins it, simple as that."
The Tornado defeated Avella during the regular season, but lost twice to Mount Lebanon and dropped its only match against Trinity.
"We'll go down there, take our best shot and see what happens,"team captain Colt Filges said. "Any team can have a bad day."
Each team enters 10 shooters in the competition and keeps its eight best scores. Beveridge said seven of his seniors, Filges, Kayla Fry, Steve Gizienski, Kara Knechtel, assistant captain Erica Leslie, Nicholas McCurdy and Mark Zanella, have been consistent shooters all season.
Fry won the WPIALindividual title last year and finished fifth in the state. The WPIALindividual meet, to which all 12 teams send their best four shooters, takes place Thursday.
Beveridge is sending Filges, Fry, Leslie and Zanella to that competition.
Fry was one of three shooters to record a perfect 200-20X at the WPIALIndividual Championships last year.
"I treat everything like it's practice,"Fry said. "Block everything out and shoot for the target."
Fry became interested in the rifle team through her experiences as a young hunter. Filges' father teaches at the Butler City Hunting and Fishing Club.
"I've done shooting for as long as I can remember," he said.
Erica Leslie always had interest in hunting and her brother, Joe, had Beveridge as a teacher at Butler.
"He said he was a nice guy and I should give the rifle team a try," she said. "He would have done it himself, but he had a job."
Butler has 37 youngsters on its rifle team — 20 varsity, 17 junior varsity — while most high school teams have about 25 participants.
Butler's shooting range is located on campus in the basement below the band room.
"We have an intramural program in the fall, sponsored by the NRA(National Rifle Association) in which kids from freshmen on up can come down to our range here and give it a try,"Beveridge said. "We get 40 kids or so in here for that every year, many of whom have never held a rifle before.
"It's become a pretty good feeder program for us."
And Butler's turned into a pretty good team. Last year's squad had six seniors. This year's team has 12.
"Everybody's real positive with each other,"Leslie said. "We work together as a team. It's up to each individual and every shot counts."