On Saturday, Aug. 2, some of the best male and female high school shooters in Massachusetts will gather at Hanover’s University Sports Complex for the second annual A Shot for Life Challenge. The 32 shooters will compete to determine the “Best Shooter in Massachusetts” and continue the A Shot for Life Foundation (ASFL) pledge to raise money for brain cancer research.
At last year’s event, Walpole shooting guard Scott Arsenault took home the title by hitting a remarkable 90.6 percent of his shots and overall the event raised more than $10,000. But, ASFL founder Mike Slonina is not one to rest on his laurels and he was already making plans for expansion in year two.
“The growth is awesome. It’s accelerating in the right direction really quickly,” said Slonina, a rising senior at Quinnipiac University and Catholic Memorial graduate.
In 2011, Slonina, then a senior at CM, shot for 24 hours to raise money for Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Children’s Hospital. The event was in honor of his mother, a cancer survivor.
That day, the A Shot for Life Foundation was created and now he is inviting other shooters from across the state to help further the cause by shooting for two hours. The players will move to different spots on the floor, including mid-range jumpers, free throws, and three-pointers, and will only get a 10-minute break at the midway point.
The shooter with the best percentage at the end gets to be named the top shooter in the state.
He explained, “They’re going to get hot; they’re going to get cold and I want to see who can push through that barrier of exhaustion. Two hours of shooting constantly is hard.”
Heading into year two, Slonina has added a girls’ division to the competition. He admitted that there was initially supposed to be one last year as well, but there was not enough time to find shooters as the event was being organized.
He also noted that the girls recently outshot the boys (“They crushed them!”) at a workout at University Sports, so he is expecting an impressive performance from the players that have been invited.
The other major addition to year two is a dunk contest featuring five players. Slonina said, “I’m really interested to see how that goes. We’re going to keep doing it [each year], but we’ll tweak it as we go. I’m really excited for it.”
The dunk contest will be judged by four players that were competitors in last year’s A Shot for Life Challenge (Sam Bohmiller, Nick McKenna, Tyler Gibson, and Shiraz Mumtaz). This is one of the core ideals of what Slonina calls “the A Shot for Life family.” He wants the players to feel invested in ASFL and to support it beyond their participation in the competition.
Slonina said, “This is such a personal cause for me. It is the most important thing to me by far and I tell them this at the first welcome meeting. The second they put on the A Shot for Life logo, I am in their corner 100 percent for whatever they need.”
He added, “We send out emails and the kids can say yes or no and that’s the end of the recruiting process. If I need to convince you to be a part of it then you’re not the right fit.”
One of the keys to the success of the A Shot for Life Challenge has been the support that Slonina has received in his quest to take ASFL to the next level. From the committee that chooses the shooters to Jungle Ink making the shooters’ jerseys and gear to University Sports Complex giving up its facility for the day, he is quick to give credit to those who have lent a hand.
“The ‘U’ is the reason that we’re able to function the way that we do,” he said. “They donate 100 percent of the space. The ‘U’ has been great to us and I see a long relationship with the ‘U.’”
Even though he has watched the players during the season, at shootarounds and workouts, and even promotional photo shoots, Slonina will not give any hints to who he thinks will be the next Scott Arsenault. His only admission is that the event “favors a set shooter.”
He added, “The awesome thing about this event is that it is completely impossible to pick a favorite. It’s really whoever steps up that day and that’s who’s going to take home the title.”
Already, Slonina is making plans for more expansion in year three. He wants to add a point guard skills competition and he would love to add a game between prep school stars and players from the MIAA. There is no backing down from his promise to make ASFL national because he knows that there is still a need for more money and more research.
“I get emails almost every single day from someone that has lost a loved one [to cancer] or who has cancer themselves...That’s all the motivation I need,” Slonina reflected.
“A Shot for Life is like my baby; it runs my life and I’m okay with that. This is not a project for me; this is a passion and what I think I’m meant to do in life.”
For those interested in making a donation to A Shot for Life, visit www.gofundme.com/a9mxjo.
The full roster of shooters for the second annual A Shot for Life Challenge is as follows:
Kelly Fogarty #1 (Walpole)
Hayley Wardwell #22 (Cardinal Spellman)
Sam Hyslip #21 (Westford Academy)
Infiniti Thomas-Waheed #45 (Newton North)
Alana Gilmer #22 (Archbishop Williams)
Katie Nelson #4 (Bishop Feehan)
Bridget Herlihy #15 (Braintree)
Ashley Russell #10 (Braintree)
Emma Forbes #2 (Bishop Feehan)
Vanessa Edgehill #15 (Rivers)
Joey Downes #3 (Sandwich)
Brandon Twitty #1 (Catholic Memorial)
Mike Nelson #2 (Bishop Feehan)
Ryan Boulter #23 (Mansfield)
Matt Kelley #12 (Canton)
Tommy Mobley #12 (Newton North)
Denis Tobin #31 (Catholic Memorial)
Ryan Roach #21 (Cardinal Spellman)
Jake Foote #20 (Duxbury)
Efthim Butka #31 (North Quincy)
Ben Judson #99 (St. John’s Prep)
Paul Calobrisi #21 (Westwood)
Chris Rodgers #12 (Franklin)
Matt Hanna #22 (Catholic Memorial)
Jack Loughnane #5 (BC High)
Drew Myers #33 (Quincy)
Shaquan Murray #3 (New Mission)
Dunk Contest Roster:
Anthony Green (North Quincy)
Guillien Smith (Catholic Memorial)
Nick George (Cardinal Spellman)
Nick Lynch (Lawrence Academy)
Sidney Limage (Archbishop Williams)