While the Elizabethtown Area High School rifle team gradually fell off after an 8-0 start to the season, the Bears still finished the year with one of the better records in the Lancaster-Lebanon League, and the overall balance of the group showed at the year-end individuals tournament.
Before that, however, they had two final matches to close out the regular season. Elizabethtown traveled to Garden Spot on Wednesday, Feb. 6, losing 491-490 in its worst shooting performance as a team this season.
While no one on the Bears shot worse than a 96, they were unable to turn in a score better than 99, which came from senior Matt Risbon. Junior Bella Albino, sophomore Tyler Chapman and freshman Erin Weaver each shot a 98, while senior Aaron Tetkoskie and freshman Rachel Broomell had 97s.
Meanwhile, Garden Spot was similarly uneven, with Kylie Fox turning in a team-high 99. However, the Spartans saw four shooters (Lauren Wolfe, Alex O’Neill, Aaron Good and Lani Duncan) score 98s, the latter two during the final relay to push them ahead.
Elizabethtown’s last regular season match came at home on Thursday, Feb. 7, against reigning league champion Manheim Central. The Bears recovered nicely from the previous day’s defeat, pulling out a 497-494 win to finish the year at 11-3, second in the L-L League behind Manheim Township (12-2). The win-total is the highest in program history.
“I’m always optimistic, but I’m cautiously optimistic,” head coach David Reinfried said. “So this year exceeded my expectations by a long stretch. With such a young team, I was hoping to have a winning record, but to be 11-3 is way past what I imagined. Of course, you get hungry when you start winning, so we were looking to win it all, but starting out 8-0 was wonderful. Everyone else was peaking in the second half of the season, and we shot worse than we did in the first half, which was our youth coming back to get us. Next year, the underclassmen will have a year of experience under their belt, and it won’t affect us as much. Experience is a great asset that makes a difference.”
Albino and Tetkoskie led the way with a pair of 100s. Risbon, Chapman and sophomore Cole Ginder rounded out the qualifying scores with 99s. Braydon Groff had the lone 100 for Manheim Central. The rest of the top Barons scores came from Anna Haldeman (99), Hunter Shoop (99), Kami Groff (98) and Ellie McCabe (98).
Lastly, the Bears competed in the L-L League Individuals Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 9, at Conestoga Valley to finish the year. They took third in the team rankings with a score of 987, just one point behind second-place Ephrata (988) and one ahead of fourth-place Manheim Central (986). Elizabethtown tied team champion Manheim Township (an event record 994) with five shooters in the top 25.
Risbon had a 198 with no centers, putting him at 14th. Ginder (20th), Broomell (23rd) and sophomore Jagger Gilleland (24th) all shot 197s, while Chapman (43rd) had a 193. Albino was the lone Bear to finish in the top 10, getting a 198 with one center for 10th place.
“She’s really shooting well,” Reinfried said. “This is her third year with us, and she shot a 100 in the last match. I expect great things from her and a lot of the others. I just think it’s gonna be awesome next year.”
Looking ahead to the 2019-20 season, the Bears should be in a strong position to succeed. They’ll lose just Risbon and Tetkoskie to graduation this year, though both leave the program with plenty of accolades. The latter had four 100s across his two seasons with the team.
Risbon, meanwhile, was dominant at times. He shot a 100 in 18 different matches through his four years on the team, making the All-Star team in each of the last three seasons. He led the league with a 99.5 average in 2017, coming in fourth (99.42) in 2018 and second (99.58) this year. He also won the league pairs tournament alongside Caleb Flores last season and came in seventh (2017), ninth (2018) and 25th (2016) at the individuals tournament in addition to his 14th-place outing this year.
“You can’t replace people like that,” Reinfried said. “ Matt doesn’t give himself enough credit; he actually exceeded Caleb with his overall career 100s and made All-Stars three years in a row. I see how hard it is to do that. You shoot against 160 kids minimum across four years, so to do what he did, it’s an amazing achievement. But with the kids coming up, I think every one of them can shoot as good as they did.”
That depth could pay dividends for Elizabethtown next year. Ten of the team’s remaining 15 shooters posted qualifying scores during matches in the regular season (Albino, Broomell, Chapman, Gilleland, Ginder, Weaver, sophomore Emma Kreiser, freshman Luke Barton, freshman Emily Bonsall and freshman Marrie Smith). Albino and fellow junior Mackenzie Smith will be the only two rising seniors, leaving the rest of the roster with a large group of sophomores and freshmen with a year of significant match time.
But the rest of the L-L League is bound to be stronger as well. The Bears’ 8-0 start this year proves that they have the ability to dominate, but their 3-3 finish is evidence that they still have much to improve on. Reinfried is well aware of this, and he’s planning on addressing those inconsistencies when the preseason rolls around. However, hopping past Manheim Township to win the league title in 2020 is still a major aspiration.
“If the kids come back and work hard, I say the sky’s the limit, he said. “But the competition’s always gonna be better, so you got to keep working. Winning is always the goal. If you set your goals too low, you’re gonna achieve them. You always have to aim high.”