Six youngsters advanced to a district Knights of Columbus Free Throw championship by placing first in their divisions in a contest sponsored by K of C Council 7091 on Sunday, January 28 at Polk State College in Winter Haven. Polk State College's head basketball coach Brandon Giles and members of the PSC varsity basketball team staged a free basketball clinic for the kids before the free throw contest. Catherine Frank, a PSC professor and professional calligrapher, inscribed the certificates with a helping hand from Karen Rowan.
The K of C Youth Free Throw Championship is a major youth initiative of the Knights of Columbus. Each year more than 200,000 young sharpshooters from all over the United States participate in competitions sponsored by local K of C councils.
The most prolific free throw shooter of the day was Caleb Harrison of St. Joseph School in Winter Haven, who connected on 11 of his 15 allotted shots, to win the Boys 13 division. Harrison edged out Shareem Smith of the Davenport School of the Arts who put nine shots through the hoop.
Aleah McPartlan won her age group for the third consecutive year, taking the Girls 12 division by sinking five shots, equaling what she did last year to win the Girls 11 division. Currently a student at Jewett Academy in Winter Haven, Aleah made her debut in K of C competition in 2015, winning the Girls 10 division by sinking two free throws.
In his first year of eligibility in the local K of C competition, Aleah’s younger brother, Jordan McPartlan, a student at Elbert Elementary School in Winter Haven, won the Boys 9 division title on Sunday by making six of his 15 shots from the free throw line.
The remaining Boys division winners, all from the Davenport School of the Arts, and the number of shots they made were: Age 11 division: Malcolm Smith, 7 of 15; Age 12 division: Josef Hansen, 10 of 15; and Age 14 division: Nathan Gomez, 6 of 15.
All contestants received a certificate and a McDonald’s gift card, with first place winners also earning a trophy and an automatic berth in the district shoot off tentatively set for February 17 at St. Joseph School in Winter Haven. District winners will go to the regionals, with all regional winners advancing to the state finals on March 3 at Olympia High School in Orlando.
This year’s local shoot off was chaired by William “Billy Bob” Morris, with assistance from fellow knights Ken Nelson, Jim McPartlan, Ed Sheehan, Jerry Melnitzke and Andrew Brownyard. Wives Elaine Morris and Kristel Melnitzke also were involved.