Ten-year-old Don Skipper of Winter Haven, Fla., connected on 12 of his 15 free throw attempts to lead a field of 31 boys and girls who competed in the 2014 Knights of Columbus Council 7091 Free Throw Championship on Sunday, Jan. 12 at Polk State College in Winter Haven.
Skipper, a student at Chain O’Lakes Elementary School, won the boys 10-year-old division with his dazzling performance from the free throw line. Skipper and seven other first place winners in the local contest will now go on to compete in the district K of C Free Throw Championship.
Other boys who took home first place trophies were Armando Pabon of Heritage Christian Academy, who sank 10 shots to win the boys’ 11 division, and three students from the Davenport School of the Arts — Leo Landron, who made 11 shots to win the boys’ 14 division; Darius Reynolds, who won the boys’ 13 division by sinking 10 free throws and Cole Steinmetz, who claimed the boys’ 12 division title by putting 10 shots through the hoop. After Sunday’s shoot off, Steinmetz admitted he was not as accurate as last year when he won the boys’ 11 division in near perfect style by connecting on 14 of his 15 shots from the free throw line.
In this year’s girls competition, the Davenport School of the Arts produced two winners — Kaitlyn Rogers, who captured the 11-year-old title by making seven shots and Sarah Smith, who won the 13-year-old title by sinking six shots. The other girls division winner was Dorria Skipper, sister of Don Skipper and a student at Jewett Academy, who made four shots, enough to claim the 12-year-old division title.
Each of the 31 contestants received a certificate, with the first place winners earning a trophy and an invitation to compete in the district round to be held at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Winter Haven on a date to be determined. The district winners will advance to the regionals, and if successful on that level, will go to the state finals.
The event was chaired for the third consecutive year by knight William “Billy Bob” Morris, who was assisted in staging the shoot off by fellow knights Bob Connell, Ken Nelson, Jim McPartlan, Arnold Saunders and John Pharnes. Wives Elaine Morris and Ellie Connell also helped.
PSC basketball coaches Matt Furjanic and Kevin Landrum and varsity basketball players Nigel Grant, J.R. Esor and Jamal Evans assisted with scoring and by preparing the PSC gym for the competition. PSC Professor Catherine Frank, a professional calligrapher, inscribed the contestant’s name on each certificate.
“We wish all of our first place finishers the best of luck when they compete in the district shoot off at St. Joseph’s School. Based on their performance at PSC, they certainly have the talent to win on a higher level,” Morris said during the trophy presentation ceremony. Morris also thanked the parents who accompanied the boys and girls to the competition as well as his fellow knights, Professor Frank and the PSC basketball coaches and players for contributing to the success of the event.
The K of C Youth Free Throw Championship is a major youth initiative of the Knights of Columbus. Each year more than 200,000 young sharpshooters from all over the United States participate in competitions sponsored by local K of C councils.