Maher wins 2014 Miss Annie Oakley title

YORK WOODS – In a contest having many sitting on the edge of their seats, 14-year-old Hayley Maher emerged as the top sharpshooter in the Miss Annie Oakley shootout, earning the title of Miss Annie Oakley 2014 on July 24.

“I was excited,” said the 14-year-old Greenville High School freshman, mostly at a loss for words. She said this was her first attempt and she’d been practicing for “a couple of weeks.” A relative had noted earlier she’d been shooting for years. At the Pilgrimage following the contest, Hayley admitted to being a little nervous. She had won, and she realized that was a “big responsibility.”

The contest began with 10 contestants on Wednesday. By the time they reached the 80-foot mark, there were still six in the running. All six were called back for the final competition Thursday, which began at the 85-foot mark. Only two contestants survived that first round: Haley and 14-year-old classmate GHS freshman Katie Hurd. Haley was the lone survivor at the 90-foot mark. One more round was held at the 85-foot mark for the second runner-up. Majenica Nealeigh, 18, took that honor as she was the only one to hit the mark the second time through.

Katie said she felt good… “I’m glad I got as far as I did. I never thought I’d end up in the top three.” This was her first attempt at the shootout. She’d been practicing about a month.

“I’m very surprised,” said Majenica, 18. “I never thought I’d get this far.” This was her third or fourth attempt (“I don’t remember”) and is a recent high school graduate. Majenica was home-schooled and quipped: “Yeah, I graduated from my living room.”

Courtney Osborne, 2013 Miss Annie Oakley, was one of many feeling the tension of the previous night when six contestants took the competition to the 80-foot-mark. After awarding the trophies and putting the sashes and corsages on the three winners, she said she was sad to finally be wrapping up her reign. She will always be Miss Annie Oakley 2013, but now had to turn the traditional rifle over to her successor, Hayley Maher, Miss Annie Oakley 2014. “I’m very happy for Hayley,” she said. “I know she’s going to have a lot of fun.”

Shawna Osborne, Alyssa Baumgardner and Hannah Gulley were among the six competing Thursday night; competing from the previous night were Rachel Francis, Mariana Ramos, Hannah Bingham and Tara Goubeaux.

Left to right: First runner-up Katie Hurd, Miss Annie Oakley 2014 Hayley Maher and second runner-up Majenica Nealeigh.

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