AP NEWS

Katy student finishes 2nd in National Elks Hoop Shoot

May 9, 2019

Tays Junior High School student Rihanna DeLeon, 12, placed second at the National Elks Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest April 26-27 in Chicago.

She shot 23 of 25 and 5 of 5 in a shoot out, said William Sample, Katy Elks Hoop Shoot chairman. DeLeon was sponsored by Katy Elks Lodge 2628 and was one of 12 competitors at the national level. Last year she finished fourth at nationals.

“I would like to, first and foremost, thank God for my athletic ability, and for guiding me mentally and spiritually,” said Rihanna. “Thank you to my friends and family for the endless love, support, cheering, and good luck wishes throughout the competition. A special thanks to Billy Sample (Katy Elks Lodge Director), Kelly McDermott (Elks Hoopshoot Texas State Director), and Gregg Eleeson (Elks Hoopshoot Southwest Regionals Director) for following me along the journey, and to all the volunteers that made this program possible. See you in Chicago next year!!”

“This year’s competition was fierce,” said Sample. “Five perfect 25/25 scores were recorded. Rihanna was focused and intent on placing in the trophy rounds, more calm even knowing one of her competitors had scored perfect at regionals. Next year will be her last shot at the gold and Hall of Fame. We are ready for the 4.2.1 countdown of her Elks Hoop Shoot journey.”

This was the second consecutive year that DeLeon advanced to national competition. Her fourth-place finish in 2018, said Sample, was the highest level of competition that a Katy youth had ever reached.

“After coming so close to winning the national title, coming in second, and losing by one shot, has given Rihanna the confidence to believe that she can win it all next year,” said her parents Ross and Abby DeLeon. “It’s been a long hard-fought season.”

“Rihanna knew this season had to be different from last year, so she started preparing in August. The nerves were high, the anxiety level was extreme as she went through each round in the competition. She could definitely feel some pressure, as she knew she had to improve from last year’s fourth place finish,” said the DeLeons.

“In the beginning she set a goal for herself to make the podium. She didn’t do it without putting up a fight. She tied for second and went on a shoot out to win second place. We are extremely proud of her!! If there’s anything she takes away from The Elks Hoop Shoot is that hard work pays off, and in able to be great you have to put in the work. It has taught her discipline, patience, humbleness, control, and confidence.”

Competition started in January in Katy where DeLeon won the local lodge contest in her age category and then advanced to the Gulf Coast District shoot-off. This year’s local competition had 115 students representing Katy Independent School District.

DeLeon earned the Texas title at the Texas Elks State Association Championship in mid-February. DeLeon won the 2019 Southwest Regional Elks Hoop Shoot Free Throw Contest in Dallas on March 16 to advance to the national competition by winning the 12-13 year old girls division. Visit elks.org/hoopshoot for information.

karen.zurawski@chron.com