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Rifle Preview: Alden is school to beat, but keep eyes on Lancaster

2015 State champions (team): Alden won the smallbore (.22) competition and was second in air rifle. Section VI took the team smallbore title and finished second in air rifle.

Returning 2015 State champion (individual): Noah Fox of Alden capturing four titles in the process of becoming the overall champion. He set a state record in air rifle with a score of 294 out of a possible 300.

2015 Section VI team champion: Alden won both .22 cal. and air rifle.

Returning 2015 Section VI individual champion: Fox of Alden. He won the offhand, aggregate and air rifle disciplines.

Who’s good, teams: Alden has been a dominating presence in the area in this sport for years. However, Lancaster may have something to say about how the Sectional competition turns out. The Legends have a very deep team and have posted some very good scores early in the season. Kenmore looks to be strong in the air rifle. And Clarence beat Alden by four points in a match in December, just to scramble the outlook a bit more.

Who’s good, individuals: Fox is in a class by himself, and the senior is poised to have one more great season. Fox is known for an amazing lack of movement as he prepares to shoot. Earlier this year he was invited to Colorado Springs to take part in the Junior Olympic Rifle Finals against some of the best shooters in the country. He finished ninth in his age group. Fox broke the ECIC and school record with a 293 score on Dec. 21.

Morgan DiMaria of Kenmore was sixth in the sectionals in air rifle last year, and she could play a role in the battle for individual honors during the postseason.

What’s new: The list of local teams now includes Holland, which made its debut this season.

Ladies first: Rifle is truly a co-ed sport on the high school level. The girls first started showing up in the late 1970s at area high schools, and they continue to come out for local teams. Some squads are pretty close to 50-50 in the male/female ratio. For example, Alden keeps 20 shooters, and nine of them are girls.

Size can be a drawback in rifle, and that tends to level the playing field between boys and girls. Some coaches will say that girls are better at taking instructions than boys at this age, and that helps them.

Equality applies to coaching as well. Kristina Brown was an excellent shooter in her high school days. Now she’s the coach of the Kenmore team. Colleen McCoy coaches at Iroquois.

Participation: The sport remains quite strong in Western New York, but there are problems overall. Coach Paul Borkowski of Alden wonders if this will be the last year for smallbore events at the state level. Long Island once had 40 teams take part in that discipline. Now it has none.

Save the dates: The sectionals will be held at Alden High School on Feb. 13. The state championships will be held at West Point on March 5.

Who’s the favorite to be Prep Talk Player of the Year? Fox is the obvious choice to win another award.