The Coast News Group
Gabriella Mikhail of Miller Elementary holds her trophy alongside Bruce Raphaelson of the Elks Lodge following the Hoop Shoot tournament on Jan. 11. Photo by Jeremy Launder

35 children participate in annual Hoop Shoots in Encinitas

ENCINITAS — More than 35 children gathered Jan. 11 in Encinitas to show off their free-throw skills in the annual Hoop Shoots event hosted by the Elks Lodge.

The competition, which aims to inspire grit among children, brought children together at San Dieguito Academy from throughout San Diego County. Children, who were separated by age groups, were tasked with shooting 25 free throws. Those with the most shots advanced to the Semi State Finals Hoop Shoot Contest in Redlands, California.

The winners of the Redlands competition advance to another round in Las Vegas before a national competition takes place later this year in National Hoop Shoot Contest in Chicago, Illinois, according to James Johnson Jr., the Elks Lodge member responsible for the local Hoop Shoot program.

The following children were named the winners in the Encinitas tournament:

●       Ages 8-9 boys group: Owen Craig of Richland Elementary School

●      Ages 8-9 girls group: Christina Grande of Lexington Elementary School

●      Ages 10-11 boys group: Riley Harvey of Johnson Elementary School

●      Ages 10-11 girls group: Gabriella Mikhail of Miller Elementary School

●      Ages 12-13 boys: Nathan Kuzmanoff of Shorecliffs Middle School

●       Ages 12-13 girls: Erin Murphy of San Elijo Middle School

Johnson said the long-running Hoop Shoots program is just one of many ways the Elks Lodge, a national society group, inspires the next generation of Americans.

“The skills learned was hand and eye coordination, self-discipline, respect, community and competitiveness,” Johnson said. “The Elks ‘Hoop Shoot’ highlights the Elks’ commitment to America’s youth.”

The Elks Lodge has donated more than $450 million to charitable causes including to youth programs, veterans’ services, drug education programs and programs for those with disabilities, among other causes, according to the organization.

For more information about the Hoop Shoots program, go to