Athletes compete in 4-H State Invitational

Published 7:00 am Thursday, August 1, 2019

Six athletes from the 4-H club represented the county by participating in a variety of shooting competitions at the 4-H State Invitational on July 19, and July 20. The athletes competed in a number of events, including air pistol, air rifle, compound archery and .22 pistol. The event was the culmination of the work and hours spent by the athletes to perfect their technique.

Club Advisor Alex Shook said that in order for athletes to compete in just the district shoot they needed a minimum of eight hours of supervised practice by a 4-H certified coach. With some athletes competing in up to three disciplines, that means a full 24 hours must be spent by the club member to qualify for the shoot. In order to move on to the state event, they must have a qualifying score and spend another two hours in safety training and practice. Shook said two of his athletes placed in the top three of the air pistol competition at state, but said that those numbers aren’t the focus for his organization.

“These high places are wonderful, but that’s secondary to teaching the youth how to have fun in competitive shooting sports in a safe environment,” Shook said.

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Shook uses the shooting sports as a way to educate young members about firearm safety, and how to properly use them in a competitive setting.

“One of the things important to me is I know the kids going through our program have been instructed on how to safely handle a firearm,” Shook said. “I feel good about that when they’re in their homes, or exposed to firearms in other areas.”

With a large portion of the county population living in rural areas, Shook said that some of the members might have already been exposed to firearms.

However, he wants to make sure every member, no matter how experienced, can learn from the 4-H program.Instruction in the programs is handled entirely by volunteers who show the youngsters how to use a firearm.

“I have a lot of great volunteers who spend a lot of time working with these children, and helping them improve year to year,” Shook said.

That improvement comes from repetition for the athletes, and Shook said the physical aspects of the sport could be underestimated.

“It takes a lot of training, a lot of discipline and it’s physically taxing,” Shook said. “To be able to control your breathing, and to be successful is a physical thing.”

The enjoyment of the sport by the members comes from the plethora of disciplines available, and relationships formed with competitors.

“Each category has its challenges, and that’s what makes it so fun for the kids,” Shook said. “There’s a lot of camaraderie amongst the kids.”