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Elks hoop shoot: Worthington middle schooler makes free throws all the way to Iowa City

WORTHINGTON -- A contest that started as just something to do on a boring Saturday afternoon took Worthington seventh grader Kyra Van Briesen all over the state of Minnesota and to Iowa City winning trophies this winter.

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Worthington seventh grader Kyra Van Briesen poses with her trophy for placing second at the Elks Regional Hoop Shoot in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, March 18.

WORTHINGTON -- A contest that started as just something to do on a boring Saturday afternoon took Worthington seventh grader Kyra Van Briesen all over the state of Minnesota and to Iowa City winning trophies this winter.

Van Briesen finished second this past weekend at the Elks North Central Regional Hoop Shoot in Iowa City, competing with the champions from Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois to see who could make the most of 25 free throws. Before making it to Regionals, she had to proceed through local, district and state contests.

“I was sitting around at home not really doing anything and then my dad suggested we go to the hoop shoot in Worthington and try it out to see how I would do for fun,” the 13-year old said. “And then I wound up winning that one, and then I went to Owatonna and won districts, and then I won state to move on to regionals.”

Not a bad showing for having not even planning to compete in the first place. But she definitely had plenty of basketball practice. This winter, she played her first year of school basketball at Worthington Middle School, as well as on the Worthington Girls Basketball Association traveling team, which her father Cory Van Briesen coaches.

“This year, she got a double dose,” her father said.

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“Basketball is my favorite sport,” she said. “And last summer I played on a team in Sioux Falls at the Pentagon, that was really fun.”

Basketball may be her favorite sport, but it is far from her only sport and certainly not her only activity. She stays busy. She plays softball in the spring and volleyball in the fall, and also plays the violin in orchestra, the saxophone in band, the baritone saxophone in jazz band, sings in choir and plays piano.

“We’re always busy running around to concerts and sporting events,” the middle schooler said.

Van Briesen says that she was not expecting to even win the local hoop shoot in Worthington, as she competed against some eighth graders in the 12-to-13 age bracket, which she did the whole way.

“I was kind of surprised to win because there were eighth graders shooting too,” she said. “I didn’t think I would win because the eighth graders are supposed to be better. But I was surprised that I won.”

And then at the state contest in Hutchinson, she had the highest score out of every competitor in any age bracket, boys or girls. She made 22-of-25 free throws, besting everybody in the 8-9, 10-11 and 12-13 brackets.

“They have an award at the state competition for the best of the best,” Cory Van Briesen said. “They give it to the best score out all of the boys and girls shooters for making the most free throws out of everybody.”

In order to make so many free throws, Van Briesen practices twice a week for about half an hour. Except during the week before the regional competition, she got sick and wasn’t able to practice as much as normal.

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“I had Influenza A the whole week and was out of school,” she said. “So I only got the gym the night before. But I felt better by tournament time.”

Traveling to Owatonna for districts, Hutchinson for state and Iowa City for regionals was the highlight of competing in the Elks Hoop Shoot contests, she said.

“I hadn’t been to Owatonna, Hutchinson or Iowa City before, so it was cool to travel and see those places,” Van Briesen said. “I would probably say Iowa City was the coolest place we went.”

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