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Ormie King: National free-throw champ has Auburn connection

From the Read Ormie King's latest Legends of Auburn columns series
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Today’s story is a great one and comes to us from my old friend Jim Roshick. It’s about a boy with Auburn roots who just won the National foul shooting title for the 10-11 year old age group! As you will see, Tommy says his motivation to win comes from Glens Falls native Joe Girard III, who just had a great opening game this past week for Syracuse University basketball, along with the Boeheim boys. I think Joe Girard III and all the SU players would be pretty impressed with Tommy’s consistent 25-for-25 foul shooting skills!

Tommy’s grandparents are Pete & Ceci Goodelle of Auburn, and his mom and dad are Andy and Nicole Goodelle of New Hartford. Here's an article that was originally published in the Observer-Dispatch in Utica and we're republishing today with permission of the editor. It was written by Kenny Lacy, who is a sports reporter for the Observer-Dispatch and can be emailed at

Every year the Elks National Foundation Inc. hosts the Elks Hoop Shoot contest to crown a free-throw shooting champion.

The event usually culminate in a finals event held in Chicago, but due to COVID-19, this year’s national finals were held virtually at local locations for each contestant.

Of the over 3,000,000 kids that participated throughout the country, two local contestants earned a top-three finish in their age group, including one that was crowned national champion of the Boys 10-11 Division.

After shooting 25/25 in his first round and then 25/25 in his tie breakers, Tommy Goodelle, 11 years old, of New Hartford, defeated Samual Bower of Idaho to earn the title of national champion. With his win, Goodelle becomes the first boy from Utica Elks No. 33 to win the national finals.

“It feels great,” Goodelle said on winning the national finals. “Hard work always pays off and it’s proven right there.” Hard work is what Tommy did to prepare for this event. Goodelle put up 200 shots a day, five days a week with his father at Borza’s Recreation Center.

“TJ Borza was so good to us,” said Tommy’s father, Andy. “He let us use his gymn for the tri-states and the nationals. And he let myself and Tommy go in and shoot anytime his place wasn’t rented out.”

To get to the national finals, contestants must win at the lodge level, district level, regional level, state level and tri-state level before they can qualify for the finals.

Tommy finished in third in the Boys 8-9 Division with a score of 23/25 back in 2019. In 2019, Tommy said his motivation to win came from Syracuse University guard and Glens Falls native Joe Girard III. Girard III won the event in 2012, and Tommy believed that since Girard III was from New York and won, he could do the same.

Like Girard III was for him, Tommy hopes to be an inspiration, “I hope to inspire some young basketball player that he can do the same thing that I did.”

Along with having the honor of being known as a national champion, Tommy will have his name enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as the Elks Hoop Shoot National Champion. Along with having his name etched in the Hall, Tommy and his family will get a chance to visit the Hall of Fame in September where there will be a virtual trading card of Tommy available to be seen.

Along with Tommy, Brett Saunders of Herkimer also competed in the national finals. Saunders finished in third place in the Boys 8-9 Division after shooting 23/25 in the finals.

Before Tommy finished in third in 2019, no boy from Mohawk Valley had been to the final round. The only other winner from the area was Tricia Pelnik of New York Mills who won the Girls 12-13 Division in 1984.

“To have two local kids make it to the nationals and finish in the top three from little Mohawk Valley, that’s unheard of,” Andy says. “No other boy has ever won it; no other boy has ever come top three before Tom in 2019.” Kenny Lacy, sport reporter for the Observer-Dispatch

Congratulations, Tommy, on such a tremendous accomplishment! We are all very proud of you! Keep up the good work and thanks for being a great Legend of Auburn and New Hartford!

Ormie King's column appears Sundays in The Citizen and he can be reached by email at


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