Butler marksmen claim WPIAL rifle crown
Watching his team come so close to winning a WPIAL championship last season, Butler rifle coach Eric Beveridge knew his team could bring home the hardware this time around.
The Golden Tornado finished in second place in 2022, their score of 800-59x second only to Hempfield’s 800-64x.
“We had a lot of experience returning from that team and were expected to win this year,” said Beveridge. “But in the middle of the season, our scores weren’t as high as they could’ve been.
“In the last two matches of the regular season against Plum and Indiana, we were phenomenal, scored a perfect 800 both times. That gave us a lot of confidence entering WPIALs.”
Butler kept that momentum going Tuesday, scoring 799-49x to claim the district title against seven other teams at Dormont-Mt. Lebanon Sportsmen’s Club in Canonsburg.
Penn-Trafford was runner-up with 798-57x and Trinity was third (798-54x).
“When we heard what Penn-Trafford shot, we knew we had a 799 and the look on everyone’s faces, we were all so happy, hugging and high-fiving each other,” said junior Tabitha Burke, who paced Butler’s effort with an individual score of 100-9x.
“The closer we got to WPIALs, we were all focused on winning. It was crazy, we were really pushing the limit.”
The top eight individual scores combine to determine a team’s finish. Joining Burke in that group for Butler were Riley Doutt (100-7x), Dylan McKean (100-6x), Hayleigh Gorog (100-6x), Madison Krainbucher (100-5x), Lauren McKean (100-5x), Nathaniel Aaron (100-4x) and Grace Seybert (99-7x).
Luke Frazier (99-6x) and Brady Stewart (99-4x) also took aim for the Tornado.
It is the fourth WPIAL rifle title in Butler history, joining the squads from 1988, 1993 and 2020.
Burke said winning the hardware is something she’ll never forget, but the enjoyment she gets from being on the team goes beyond top scores.
“Our bond is like nothing else,” she said. “We’re all like siblings to each other. We get excited for each other and Eric is right there the whole time to help us.”
There are 16 rifle teams in the WPIAL, which is divided into four sections. The top two teams in each section qualified for Tuesday’s championship match. Butler was crowned champion of Section 4 and finished the regular season with an 11-3 record.
Butler will compete in the state championship match next week. Before that, five Tornado marksmen will take part in Thursday’s WPIAL individual championship — senior Brady Stewart, junior Grace Seybert and sophomores Hayleigh Gorog, Madison Krainbucher and Luke Frazier.
Both events are scheduled for the same venue in Canonsburg.