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Cornhole

Cornhole was a new event in the Big Sky State Games this year.

Cornhole is a game anyone can play. Competitive air rifle shooting isn’t, but the two sports cross paths Saturday in Superior.

Cornhole teams from around the region will gather at Eva Horning Park to help fund the junior and 4-H teams from the MT 10x Air Rifle Club of Superior, which made waves as a club team at a national tournament this summer.

Coach Rich Milender said organizers are looking for teams, sponsors and spectators for the tournament. The goal is to raise money to return to nationals in 2020.

“Travel is our biggest expense; on average it costs the team around $3,500 to $4,000 to attend some of the national events,” Milender said. “We try to pick and choose what the group wants to do each year. We certainly don't go to everything that we get qualified for.”

This year the four-shooter MT 10X club took first place as a club team in both the Junior Olympics and the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) national championships in Port Clinton, Ohio. The squad was made up of Heath and Howie Edison, Bailey and Decker Milender, and alternatives Mackenzie Chapman and Madeline Drey.

Coach Milender was in his motel in Port Clinton watching ESPN2 when the fundraising idea struck him.

“There was an American Cornhole League tournament showing,” he said in an email. “I had played cornhole before at BBQ's and such but had never heard of a league for it. After doing some research there were quite a few cornhole fundraisers around the country.”

It’s a simple lawn game with similar principles to horseshoes. Players throw bean bags at a raised board with a hole in it.

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“Coming from a small community it's difficult to raise money for the kids to do all the things they have the opportunity to do,” Rich Milender said. “We have done raffles before and asked people for donations but always felt the donors were never really recognized. I figured if we could make an event out of it and give the donors a banner that we would display at all our events, it would give the recognition they deserved. “

Besides being fun, the cornhole tournament is a way to introduce the “great kids” he coaches to the community, Milender said. “The program gives them an opportunity to go and do things that not many other sports in Montana allow them.”

The MT 10X club, which averages 14 to 16 members from ages 9-19, has been around for more than 20 years. It shoots at state 4-H events, state and national CMP and Junior Olympic competitions as well as competitions sponsored by the American Legion and the National Rifle Association. The junior team set a national NRA standing team record in 2019, something Milender said is “quite difficult to do.”

Jonna Warnken, a 2019 graduate of Superior High School and the MT 10X club, is a scholarship freshman on the rifle team at the University of Texas-El Paso, which opens its season in late September in Fairbanks, Alaska.

“So the opportunities provided by the program are huge,” Milender said. “Many graduates of Montana are shooting in university programs around the nation right now. I believe there are two Montana individuals that will be shooting in the 2020 Olympics.”

Entry fee to the cornhole tournament is $50 for a two-person team. It'll be a double-elimination tournament with cash prizes for the top three teams. Milender expects 32 teams. Warmup and check-in starts at 10 a.m. and the first bags start flying at 11 a.m.

To register a team or sponsor go to buildmt.com.

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