COVINGTON -- The field has been narrowed from more than 2,200 elementary school students to the top 42 for the Elks Shoot Out held at 1 p.m. on Sunday at the Newton High School gym.
During PE class at all the elementary schools in Newton, all children had a chance to participate in the shootout. With boys and girls placed in three age groups, (8-9, 10-11 and 12-13) each participant took their shots at the basket until each school was left with a boy and girl winner in each age group.
"We take all the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders who have PE and they're all invited to tryout. Most of them tryout, then the PE teacher eliminates them to a certain group. Then they have a shootout. They eliminate them by shooting 10 or 15 shots each," said Elks representative Jeff Dial.
At the shootout on Sunday, each entrant in their age group, in front of about 200 to 250 people in the stands, will take 10 shots with the boys shooting on one side of the gym and the girls on the other. After everyone has taken their shots, they will come back and take 15 more to determine the winner. In the event of a tie, each person left will take five shots until a winner is determined. The winners will try to advance to the district finals which will be held back at the Newton gym in two weeks back.
"We'll eliminate those in the district, which is from Atlanta to Augusta up to Tennessee, here at the Newton gym also. After that, we'll have the state tournament here at the Newton gym also. Then they'll go to the Southeastern region held at Valdosta."
For those that make it to the district and beyond, they will be accompanied by their families as all expenses are paid for by the Elks Club.
The winners at the region level will advance to Springfield, Mass. for the national shoot-off.
"At that point they'll get to take a tour of the Basketball Hall of Fame. If they place, their name will go in the Hall of Fame. There's a section for the youth," said Dial. "When they win their age bracket, they bring everyone back in for final playoff for a total national champion overall. That winner also gets invited to the Elks National Convention. They'll also get in the national Elks magazine."
Three years ago, a participant from the district, Augusta, made it to the national finals twice. After winning it all the first year, the boy lost in the finals the next year.
Dial estimates that there were approximately 2 to 3 million kids participating nationwide. Helping children is a big part of the Elks Club in the county as well as nationwide.
"We try to work different ways with the kids in the county. We work with the Red Ribbons and we give out dictionary's to all third-grade students," Dial said. "We have this Hoop Shoot and we have a puppet show that goes around and talks about drugs to all the schools. We also give scholarships at the high school level."