Free Throw Winners Have Their Own Goals

The winners from the Coast Elks Free Throw Contest now have a new challenge. Just weeks ago, almost 4,000 students competed to win their local competition to be able to compete Saturday.  The top 32 winners from Gulfport, Biloxi, Pascagoula, and Ocean Springs vied to get to the state level Saturday morning.

The competition was based on promoting positive choices for younger students.

Ten-year-old basketball players may not have Michael Jordan's jump shot yet, but they were still able to walk away with trophies Saturday.

"It feels good and everything," Kurt Kuluz said.

Kurt Kuluz won the eight through nine-year-old boy's age division, walking away with a free throw record that rivals many college players.

"I made 15 out of 25," Kuluz said proudly.

Nia Shy won the 10 to 11-year-old girl's division. She's been getting ready for the event for weeks.

"I keep on practicing and practicing," Shy said.

But parents said this event is not just about having fun, it's about promoting a healthy and drug-free lifestyle.

"I just think an influence of sports and sporting events with structure and parental supervision and other adults involved in her life give her an opportunity to stay drug-free," Bill Roberts, the parent of a 13-year-old said.

Organizers of the Elks Free-Throw contest agree.

"This is the Elks way of showing our community, state, and nation, to show children anything is better than doing drugs," Dick Hobson, the Elks Organizer said.

Anna Claire Allison knows when she gets older, influences like this will help her make better choices, too.

"Where people can come and stay off of drugs," Allison said.

But for now, she's thinking short-term.

"I think we go to state next, and I'm really excited," Allison said.

The state basketball Elks tournament will be here in South Mississippi in two weeks.