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Local Youths Preparing for National Junior Olympic Championships
Fryburg Junior Marksmen members – 15-year-old Brady Fowkes, of Mayport, and nine-year-old Sidney Knight, of Oil City – are headed to the Junior Olympic and Paralympic Trials in Colorado Springs in April. The two young athletes earned invitations when they qualified at an earlier match in January.
Head coach Ashley Ahrens told exploreClarion.com, “To qualify, they had to shoot a certain score based on their age.”
Brady, the son of assistant team coaches Scott Fowkes and Julie Graf, competed in this competition last year for the first time, finishing among the top 25% of the nation’s junior shooters, so he was hopeful to return.
Sidney’s participation, however, was somewhat less expected.
Sidney, the daughter of Dustin and Stefanie Knight, is a shooter with cerebral palsy and will be competing in the Paralympic category.
Ahrens explained that “2019 marks one of the very first years in the history of precision shooting sports that shooters with disabilities will be given the chance to partake in this prestigious competition.”
“Sidney will be making history as she competes in one of the first ever Junior Paralympic Trials in April. She is one of only seven shooters from across the entire United States that received an invitation,” said Ahrens.
One of the main challenges the team faces at this point is fundraising for the event.
“We are sort of in a mad fundraising dash. We didn’t expect to be sending two shooters to Colorado.”
The team is currently undertaking a fundraising campaign to help support Brady and Sidney’s trip, as well as the rest of the team during the competition season.
The team is offering advertising incentives, and all donations are 100% tax deductible.
“We’re offering some fundraising incentives where sponsors can get their business or organization name on our t-shirts or team banner,” Ahrens noted. “We’re always looking for fundraising to help support the team.”
Ahrens founded the Fryburg Junior Marksmen in October of 2014 with a simple purpose: to provide area youth with the opportunity to learn gun safety and compete in precision air rifle and small bore competitions.
“I was a competitive shooter for a decade (and) found myself at a point where I could pursue college scholarship or something else. I decided I was done competing, but I was not done with the sport, so I decided to start a junior marksmanship program,” Ahrens said.
“The thing about shooting is, you don’t have to be the most athletic person. It can really be for anyone. And, kids get into it for a lot of different reasons, some just for the fun and team spirit, while others really get into the competitive part of it.”
Since its conception, the program has expanded into an even greater cause. The team, which is currently comprised of six juniors, ages nine to 15, competes locally and abroad. In the last year, the team has traveled across Pennsylvania and beyond, to Ohio and Virginia, among other destinations. Shooters compete in nearly 20 competitions annually and additionally participate in several community service activities including Adopt-a-Highway program, Salvation Army bell ringing, Wreaths Across America, and Clarion County Youth Field Day preparations.
Along with fundraising opportunities, the team is always looking for more shooters to join in, as well as adults interested in helping out with the program.
“All of our coaches are certified coaches, but there are always ways for people to help out,” explained Ahrens.
Anyone interested in getting involved, through sponsorship or more direct involvement, is invited to contact head coach Ashley Ahrens at 814-493-5482 or visit the team’s Facebook page.
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