Saturday in Tipton County brought sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s.

It also brought the first organized sporting event in the county since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place about two months ago.

The Tipton County Clay Busters, a shooting team that includes children in grades 5 through 12 from Brighton, Munford, Covington and a couple of other area schools, held its first practice since mid-March.


“I tell you,” said Richard Griggs, the organization’s president, “they were glad to be back on that field.”

There were, of course, several restrictions that were followed during the practice.

The shooters practiced in groups of five on two fields with one coach and one scorekeeper. There were 15 minutes between each group so those leaving would not come in contact with arriving shooters. About 22 athletes took part in the practice.

Equipment was sanitized frequently and in between groups.

Athletes and coaches stayed six feet apart and athletes were encouraged to wear masks when they were not shooting.

“We tried to be very careful,” Griggs said. “We asked them if you’ve been sick or around somebody sick, don’t come.”

Parents were asked to stay in the car and everybody’s temperature was taken before practice began.

When Griggs took the temperature of the first athlete to arrive, it was a little high.

“At the beginning we had a scare,” Griggs said. “The first one whose temperature I took came in at 99.7, and I thought, ‘That’s not good.’”

But Griggs, who as the Covington Fire Department chief has medical training, thought for a minute and realized the student had been wearing a hat when he arrived. He waited a few minutes, took his temperature again and it was 98.2.

“That hat was holding heat in,” Griggs said. “We figured that out pretty quickly and we were good.”

The Tipton County Clay Busters’ season usually runs from January to August and they compete against teams from other schools and counties. With the two-month break and restrictions still in place, how things proceed going forward are still uncertain.

Regional competitions are usually held in June, followed by a state shoot in July and nationals in August. Right now the plan is to hold a virtual regional competition in June where teams shoot at their home field and submit their scores.

“This is different for everybody,” Griggs said. “We’re writing the book as we go through.”

However things work out, it was clear that Saturday was a step toward getting back to normalcy. Everybody was in high spirits as practice played out on two fields in the Atoka area.

One girl hit 94 out of 100 targets, which was a personal best.

“Those kids came back Saturday and they were shooting just as well as they were when we stopped,” Griggs said. “That was a very good sign. Most of them have been practicing at home … We’re trying to do the best we can with the hand we’ve been dealt. We’re trying to get these kids back on the field to shoot as much as we can.”

Jeff Ireland
Author: Jeff Ireland