Three years ago when a hunting buddy suggested that he join the William Blount shooting team, Todd Hitch thought it might be a good way to meet new friends.

A home-schooled junior, Hitch was thinking of local kids in a nearby high school. His shooting prowess has instead led him to making new friends across the state and around the world.

The skill Hitch has shown in shooting sporting clays led him to an eighth-place finish in the 2019 World English Sporting Championship Aug. 5-11 in Hainesville, Illinois.

“My buddy Pete Kiser told me William Blount had a team and I said I’d look into it,” Hitch told The Daily Times. “I didn’t know what ages it was for or what I’d have to do for it, but I found the link (www.wbshootingteam.org) and went on there, and that’s when I joined the team.”

From that small step, Hitch became the 2018 Sporting Clays National Champion of the Scholastic Clay Target Program — the body governing school-based shooting programs.

The son of Scott and Julianne Hitch of Maryville, Hitch competed against over 1,000 shooters in the world championships. More than 100 came from 19 foreign countries.

Competition in the National Sporting Clays Association began in age levels, and Hitch placed second in the sub-juniors category for shooters under 16.

After three days of qualifying and finishing on top of his age group, Hitch reached the Super Final round and shot 25 clays in a 12-man head to head shoot-off.

Hitch tied for seventh but lost a scorecard tiebreaker for a final ranking of 8th in the world and 5th place in Master Class.

“I had a blast up there,” the soft-spoken 16-year old said. “You get to know lots of people, and at each shoot you can hang out with your buddies.”

Hitch chuckled telling about meeting one fellow competitor in the Super Finals.

“I asked him how long he’d been shooting for, and he said 35 years,” he said. “I looked down. I thought he was joking, then I told him I’d only been shooting for three years.”

Sporting clay shooting differs from other skeet and clay shooting in that the setup changes with each round like moving around a golf course with different lays, distances and degrees of difficulty for each round of clays.

Shooting is a family tradition for Hitch. He shot with his great grandfather at around the age of nine.

His 18-year old sister Laura, now a freshman at Maryville College, also shot with the William Blount shooting team.

With events for Willliam Blount and for individuals, the shooting season stretches almost year-round, and the Hitch family has traveled extensively.

Hitch said he has been to tournaments virtually every weekend for the past six weeks, and there is a tournament at least once each month in the fall.

The investment will likely pay off with a scholarship for Hitch to continue shooting at the university level.

Hitch has won some small scholarships, and he reeled off a list of schools that have already contacted him about shooting for their programs including Texas A&M and Liberty.

“I’d like to win a full scholarship for shooting at a good school,” Hitch said. “That way I could possibly do something related to my shooting background, whether it’s opening my own shooting range or getting involved in sports marketing or stuff like that.”

A more immediate goal is to qualify for Team USA — the premier team of the NSCA. That team travels worldwide. The next big event to work toward is the NSCA 2019 World Championship in October in San Antonio, Texas.

Hitch is a modest young man, but not modest about his ambitions.

“I’d really like to win a couple of World Championships,” Hitch said.

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