Gabby Gatlin placed second in her age group at the Elks Hoop Shoot Regionals in Denver.

If someone wants to challenge Gabby Gatlin to a free throw contest, they might want to rethink that challenge. Gatlin was one of two local Elks Hoop Shoot contestants to make it all the way to the Regional Hoop Shoot and both came up one free throw short of making it the National Finals in Chicago.

Gatlin, a 13-year-old seventh grader from Liberty Middle School, made it to regionals by first winning her 12-13 age group in a local and district hoop shoot, both held at Skyline. She then won the state age group in Wichita that qualified her to compete in Regionals that had six Kansas contestants going against six contestants each from Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming.

In an early Tribune story about the other area contestant, Peyton Harts of Skyline, it was reported, in error, that Gatlin had not made it to Regionals but she won the state competition in Wichita in her age group and won the right to compete in the Regional Competition in Denver.

At the end of the regulation shoot, Gatlin had made 20 of 25 free throws from the regular free throw line and was tied with two other girls, said Michelle Gatlin, Gabby's mom.

The three girls had a shoot-off and each took an additional five shots. At the end of the first shoot-off, Gatlin was tied again with one girl. The two girls did another shoot-off and Gatlin fell one free throw short of another tie.

This was Gatlin's first and only time to compete in the Elks Hoop Shoot. She ages out this year but had a good run in the competition.

The Elks Hoop Shoot, Elks Soccer Shoot, Elks Scholarship program and Elks Drug Awareness program are all under the Elks National Foundation. The Elks put a major emphasis on drug awareness and they use these programs to teach students that there are more positive things to do than drugs, said Sandy Foster, First Lady of Kansas Elks.

The motto for the Elks Hoop Shoot is "Shoot hoops not drugs." If students are out practicing free throws, they won't have time to do drugs, Foster said.

The day before Regionals, the Kansas team gathers at Goodland and get to know each other before heading to Denver.

"This helps the kids gel and come together as a team," Foster said.

Foster's husband David is Elks State President plus West District Director and Local Director.

The Fosters are instrumental in organizing the Elks events in the state.

"They treat the kids wonderfully," Gatlin said."For the Denver trip, they pay mileage, hotel expenses and provide meals."

While Gatlin and Harts both fell short of going to Nationals, one Kansan, Dierks Kegler, won the boys 8-9 age group at Regionals and will compete at Nationals in Chicago. Four members of the Kansas team took second in their age group and each was involved in a shoot-off for first.

The Kansas Regional Elks Hoop shoot team and position: Peyton Harts of Skyline in 8-9 girls (second); Dierks Kegler 8-9 boys (first); Sara Springer 10-11 girls (second); Tyler Salmon 10-11 boys (second); Gabby Gatlin of Pratt in 12-13 girls (second); John Ferley 12-13 boys (fourth).

@GaleR_Tribune