Hillcrest High has a team in the midst of a successful season, and coach David Brooks is optimistic it can win the state championship. It’s likely most people are not familiar with this team.
Brooks, FFA teacher at Hillcrest, started the sporting clay team three years ago. The students who participate are FFA members, and there are many differences between the sport of shooting and other high school sports.
For starters, it is not sanctioned by the South Carolina High School League. It is governed by the South Carolina Youth Shooting Foundation, and the Department of Natural Resources helps the team financially and with safety guidelines, Brooks said.
“The kids have to pay their own way,” Brooks said. “They furnish the guns and all the ammunition. Hillcrest doesn’t pay for anything. We have fundraisers to help the kids that can’t afford it but are talented and want to participate. The Greenville Gun Club and Luthi’s outdoors help us a lot, and we couldn’t do this without their help.”
Hillcrest has been to three competitions this year and has placed in the top three in all of them.
Hillcrest also has a middle school team. Brooks said there is plenty of talent at that level as well, and he is looking forward to when those students advance to the high school team.
“The middle school team came in third in the first shoot we went to, and then our upper level team tied for first place at the last shoot we went to,” Brooks said.
“The season runs from December through June, and at every shoot we are shooting for points,” Brooks said. “There is a shoot once a month that is representative of everybody in the state. You get points for where you finish, and at the end of the season, those are totaled to decide a state champion. It is not like baseball where you have one game. We are doing well right now.”
Brooks has three assistant coaches: Randy Knight, Sid Tate and Mike Avants.
“I couldn’t do it without the other coaches, because everything is about safety and we have one coach for every three shooters,” Brooks said.
The team consists of Evans Marlar, Mathew Fowler, Chris Avants, Barron Campbell, Andrew Emanuel, Nick Emanuel, Taylor Wright, Kevin Wick, Parker Bentley, Curry Owens and Nick Young.
The sport has strict safety rules.
“If a shell is left in a gun accidentally, if a gun is pointed at someone in practice, whether it is loaded or not, you are off the team,” Brooks said. “We are under the microscope, and we can’t have a (mistake).”