NEW BREMEN — An Auglaize County girl, with connections to Wapakoneta, recently finished in second in a state-wide free throw shooting contest in Columbus.
Kelly Naylor, 11, a fifth-grader at New Bremen Elementary School, hit 15-of-25 free throws in the Elks Hoop Shoot contest to finish second state-wide.
“I am happy I made it that far,” the fifth grader said.
It was purely by accident that Kelly found her talent at hitting free throws.
“She was outside playing with her brother, Trey,” said Kelly’s father, Jim Naylor, who played basketball for the Wapakoneta Redskins in high school. “She was shooting better than him.”
New Bremen Elementary physical education teacher Josh Bowersock also took notice to Kelly’s skills, and pushed her to work on it.
“It was a combination of both those things,” Jim Naylor said. “We noticed she had a special talent.”
Kelly entered the Elks Club-sponsored event at her school and hit 5-of-10 shots to tie for first and then won a shootoff by hitting 4-of-5. She then competed at Marion Local Junior High, and the University of Findlay, hitting 15- and 17-of-25 to advance to the state competition at Columbus.
Kelly was sponsored by the Mercer County Elks throughout the competition.
Kelly’s father said she always got nervous thinking about each competition, but she always pulled it together when it was time to shoot.
“As she progressed to each level there was a little bit more nervousness,” Naylor said. “She would always be alright once she starting shooting. Surprisingly she was the most calm before the state competition.
Kelly finished one shot from a state championship at Jackson Middle School in Grove City by hitting 15-of-25 to tie for first, and finished second overall after hitting 3-of-5 in a shootoff. She competed in the 10- and 11-year-old category of the competition, so she will be eligible to compete again next year.
“I was a little disappointed at first,” Kelly said of finishing second, “but then Miss Ohio gave a speech and talked to us about how we did. I felt a lot better after that.”
Kelly said she practiced every week by going to the gymnasium after religion class on Fridays. She would shoot 25 free throws, and then play shoot around on the court with her brother. She would then finish the session by shooting another 25 shots.
Naturally, she said basketball has now become one of her favorite sports and plans to advance her skills.
“Hopefully I can get even further next year,” Kelly said. “Hopefully I can go to the regionals.”