One of the country's most popular youth sports program is set to return to the Rim country.
The Elk National Free Throw Contest will tip off at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 13 in the Tonto Apache gymnasium. Immediately after a short registration period, the competition will begin.
According to Elks officials, more than three million youngsters from all 50 states annually compete in the shoot. The contest is open, free of charge, to boys and girls ages 8 to 13 years.
In the contest, the entrants compete in two divisions, boys or girls, and three age groups -- 8-9, 10-11 and 12-13 years. Groups are determined by the youngster's ages on April 1, 2004.
According to the contest rules, all contestants are allowed 10 minutes of warm-up time followed by five practice free throws. Then, each contestant shoots 10 free throws. After all the youngsters have completed their initial 10 shot attempts, they are given 15 additional shots to complete the 25 tabulated for the official score.
Winners are determined by the most successful shot attempts. In case of ties, five additional shots are awarded to determine first, second and third places in each of the sex/age divisions.
In the 8-9-years-age competition, the smaller youth ball is used. In the two older boys division, contestants shoot the regulation-size high school ball. The older girls division, use the high school girls official ball.
The six Payson Elks Lodge champions, one boy and one girl in each age group, are eligible to participate in the Elks district competition. Most district contests have from five to 12 lodge champions competing against one another. The six finalists in each district contest earn the right to participate in the state contest. State winners are awarded berths in the national finals.
The names of the national champions are displayed at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Elks officials tout the hoop shoot program as one that provides a constructive, character building experience that is "free from outside influence of parents, coaches or teammates."
Elks officials urge participants to show up on time for the event. Late competitors will not be allowed to participate.