CANONSBURG – Trinity senior Kayla Huffman knew coming into the 2014 WPIAL Individual Rifle championships that there would be pressure on her to win another medal after finishing second in this event last year.
It all hit home Wednesday, when she read an account from Tuesday’s team tournament that mentioned that she was one of the top returning placewinners.
Already an owner of a perfect regular season after shooting 100s in all of the Hillers’ matches, Huffman knew she would be one of the favorites in the individual event.
“When the story thing came out in the paper and at the end, it said I was returning. I said, ‘Oh great, no pressure,’” Huffman said. “That put a lot of pressure on. And I had a perfect season, so if I screwed it up now, it would have been like, ‘Oh, good job.’”
Huffman need not have worried.
She took care of that Thursday at the Dormont-Mt. Lebanon Rifle Club by firing a 200-19X with seven center shots to become the Hillers’ eighth WPIAL individual champion and first since Chelsea Fonner won in 2010.
The win by Huffman capped a season in which the Hillers did not advance to the WPIAL team tournament for the first time in more than a decade.
But the Hillers made up for that Thursday as Huffman was joined at the medals table by teammates Mikayla DeMarino and Collin Page, who finished 12th and 13th, respectively. The top 14 placewinners in the WPIAL advance to next week’s state championships.
“I’m really glad that all three of us are going through,” said Huffman, who also finished second at the state tournament last year. “We were in a tough section with a lot of good people. We did really well.”
While she was shooting, Huffman knew she was having a strong round at the event, which brings together the top five shooters from each WPIAL school that fields a rifle team in addition to some schools that send individual competitors. She could hear it in the voice of Trinity assistant coach Katie Krocsko, who was with her during her flight.
“I can tell by the tone of her voice,” said Huffman. “She’ll count for me and we get in rhythm. I can hear sometimes. By the end, I knew I was good.”
The trio of Trinity shooters headlined a strong day for a number of area shooters.
Washington junior Marta Zimmerman finished fifth, and Avella’s Becca Spencer and Dena Simonelli were 11th and 14th, respectively, out of the 77 shooters who competed.
Washington’s Justin Eicher just missed the cut to receive a medal, shooting a 200-16X with one center shot to finish 16th. Kevin McCosby was McGuffey’s top finisher with a 200-15X to place 18th.
Rebecca Phillips of West Greene finished 26th, and Mason Long of Waynesburg was 30th.
Canon-McMillan and Peters Township each sent individual shooters. The Big Macs’ MacKenzie Wagner finished 47th, and the Indians’ Tyler Keane was 52nd.
Just as important to Huffman as winning the WPIAL championship was being one of four shooters to be awarded the Dave Cramer Perfect Season Award, named after the former Duquesne University rifle coach and longtime supporter of youth rifle programs who died last year.
Huffman received the honor along with Simonelli, McGuffey’s Courtney Stiles and Bethel Park’s Ellen Walker.
“For me, it was amazing,” Huffman said. “Dave Cramer was the guy I bought my gun off of. So to have an award named after him to let you know you had a perfect season, felt really good.”