BURBANK — Fabiana Jimenez was glad to be competing on a court again.
Two years after advancing to the national competition of the Elks National Hoop Shoot Finals and a year after missing out on the local portion of the event because of prior commitments, the Burbank resident was ready to take aim at another title.
Jimenez walked away a champion once again.
She won the 12- and 13-year-old girls’ division in Saturday’s “Hoop Shoot” free-throw contest at the Verdugo Park Recreation Center, sinking 19 of 25 free throws to advance to the district competition.
“I was nervous because I hadn’t done it in a year,” said Jimenez, who noted that she practiced only once prior to the event because of her commitments to softball and her studies at John Muir Middle School, where she is an honors student. “Coming back scared me a little bit. I was worried about my competition.”
More than three million participants take part in the annual Elks National Hoop Shoot competition, according to George Young, the director of the local event. The competition was sponsored by the Burbank Elks Lodge No. 1497 and funded and administered by the Elks National Foundation.
Local winners advance to district contests, then possibly state, regional, and national competitions.
“The main rule is to have fun,” said Young, a veteran of the Vietnam War who has directed the event for five years. “I love to give back to the community. Giving back to the community is doing things like this. I like to inspire the kids to go to school, to do the right things and to be respectful.
“I’m not a yeller. I’m not a screamer. I’m a teacher. We try to come together here as a family.”
Jimenez was not the only member of her family to win Saturday.
Her younger sister, Sophia, won the 10-11 division, making 12 free throws a year after losing by one.
“I was a little bit nervous and I was excited at the same time,” said Sophia, who won the Burbank event in 2009. “I tried to stay calm and be more focused and not get pressured.”
The most nervous member of the Jimenez family might have been the girls’ mother, Elsa Jimenez.
“I can’t eat,” said Jimenez, a Hoover High graduate. “I’m more nervous about the other competitors.”
Nerves ran rampant throughout the competitors.
“I was nervous, but I just kept my cool when I played,” said Kalam Park, who made 12 free throws to win the boys’ 10-11 division.
Arman Ekmekchian waited and kept track of his competition while waiting his turn in the 12-13 boys’ event.
After watching his friend Arthur Martirosian make 16 free throws, Ekmekchian stepped to the line and calmly made 17 to win the event.
“I was counting how many free throws everybody made,” said a grinning Ekmekchian.
Madelayne Shadkam and Zach Denton won the girls’ and boys’ 8-9 competitions, respectively.