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Kelan Kinion Grand American champion

Kelan Kinion, who hit all 100 targets Saturday, smiles after capturing the Grand American handicap championship at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta. 

SPARTA – Kelan Kinion woke up Saturday morning hoping to break 100 straight targets some day. He went to bed Saturday night the 2018 Grand American handicap champion at Sparta’s World Shooting and Recreational Complex.

The 15-year-old Silex, Missouri resident had never broken 100 straight targets, in any discipline. He couldn’t have picked a more opportune time. Kinion shoots from the 21.5-yard line.

“Great time, yeah,” he said.

And, Kinion couldn’t have been happier. The smile beaming across his face probably won’t fade for a week.

He shoots as a sub-junior, competitors 15-years-old and younger. His was the only perfect score in the nearly 2,100-shooter field. There were seven 99s on the day.

The fact that his name will be etched into amateur trapshooting history hadn’t registered with him late Saturday afternoon.

“Not at all,” he said before laughing nervously.

And, despite the nerves, Kinion held it together for the final few birds. The Sliex High School student is just finishing his second year of competition. He shoots a Beretta 682.

“The last few targets I just tried to focus and see the bird out of the trap house before I shot or moved my gun at all” he said. “That last bird, I thought I missed it. I lowered my gun and I saw I hit it. I almost did a jumping jack. It was crazy.”

Watching the last few targets was almost unbearable for Kelan’s father, Kurt Kinion.

“I think I was more nervous than he may have been,” Kurt Kinion said. “I could barely watch. He’s had a successful last couple of weeks. We shot the AIM here earlier and all through the prelim week. We’ve been working on a few things. Not only is this a special event, but this is his first 100 ever. It’s a huge milestone.

“If you would have told me this would happen this morning when we woke up, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

As for the younger Kinion, he wasn’t focused on winning the Grand American … although he didn’t dismiss the possibility either.

“Yeah, you know (legendary shooter) Leo (Harrison) said you have to imagine yourself taking a trophy or imagine yourself in the grandstand,” he said. “I did that, and it worked.”

Although his father is also a shooter, the new Grand American champion said he picked up the sport on a whim.

“My family hasn’t done much of it,” Kinion said. “I’m kind of the first one to start shooting trap, because my friend started shooting trap. I just took a swing at it and loved it from Day One.”

That decision looked pretty good Saturday afternoon.

“That was a very good decision,” he said.

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les.winkeler@thesouthern.com

618-351-5088

On Twitter: @LesWinkeler​

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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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