Kirbys return full of pride, hope to return next year for a shot at a ribbon
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When it comes to marksmanship, Taylor Kirby, who will be a senior at South Routt High School this fall, has proven that she is among the best in the state. When she qualified to represent Colorado at the 2018 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships, she wanted to be on target.
“It’s always been a goal,” Taylor said of making it to nationals last month. “I’m really excited to go, but I’m really nervous.”
From June 24 to 29, she traveled with her family to the championships, which took place at the Heartland Public Shooting Park in Grand Island, Nebraska. She had hoped to bring home a ribbon. She didn’t accomplish that, but her father Rick Kirby said she proved to be a great representative for Colorado and Routt County.
“I know that she did not get her personal best,” said Rick said. “But she did really well.”
Taylor, a 16-time Routt County champion has five state titles to her name in .22 rifle, air rifle, .22 pistol and air pistol.
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On her first day at nationals, she competed in the three-position event where the competitors must shoot in the prone, standing and kneeling competitions. Taylor finished 19th overall, but had the second highest score after the prone section scoring 193 out of 200 possible points. She placed 39th (tie) in the Olympic offhand event which was the second of three events and 38th (tie) in the silhouette competition the final day.
“I was bummed. I still am bummed,” Taylor said of her finishes in the air rifle. “But overall the experience in itself was so cool. I met a lot of really great people, and I became really good friends with my team. It was really great.”
Her experience at nationals was just the latest step in a long journey for Taylor who has grown up in South Routt and in 4-H.
In 4-H, shooting sports competitors advance through competitions at the county and state level. The top-10 shooters in .22 rifle, air rifle, .22 pistol and air pistol in the state are recognized each year. However, Colorado only sends the top 4 in each discipline to the national competition. The other six are considered alternates.
In 2016, Taylor qualified in the top-10 in two events, but the competitors that placed in front of her went to nationals so she did not get the chance to travel to Nebraska.
“It was super exciting, but I was like I’m so close,” Taylor said. “This past year, qualifying in the top 4 in both air rifle and .22 rifle, I knew that I had finally made it.”
Taylor made the choice to compete in the air rifle event, where she was ranked at the top of the state qualifiers. Participants can only compete in one event each year, and once they have competed in a discipline, they can not compete again.
“She qualified in two events, so she had to choose,” Rick said . “She is doing air rifle, and she qualified .22 rifle, so she could have went in either one.”
Rick is not only Taylor’s dad but also served as coach for the Colorado team this year — thanks in part to his daughter’s ranking. As her father and coach, Rick said he was filled with pride watching his daughter compete and handle the pressure at nationals.
“At that level, really, the difference between Taylor finishing 38th overall and first place was basically five shots,” Rick said. “Out of 180 shots, there were really five of them that were outside of the nine ring. There were probably five, six shots that took her out of contention.”
The targets the participants take aim at have numbered rings. Rick said a pencil eraser would cover both the number 10 and dime would cover both the 9 and 10 rings — the margin of error from 33 feet away is small.
Rick has been a coach for the past nine years and has watched the program grow from three members to about 13 this year. He works with fellow coaches John Halder (whose daughter was also a national level shooter), CD Johnson, Brian Ashley and volunteer coach Ben Miller. In South Routt, the shooting programs offer air rifle, air pistol .22 rifle and .22 pistol and shotgun. In Steamboat, the 4-H programs also include archery and a hunting program.
In Routt County, there are 89 members taking part in 4-H shooting programs that are supported by 20 adult shooting sports volunteers. Each year, an average of 25 4-H members go to the state shooting events at the end of the summer, and it’s not uncommon for a few top-level members to earn a trip to nationals. There are 295 participants in 4-H programs ranging for livestock judging to sewing in Routt County and more than 100 volunteers. For more information about 4-H programs call 970-879-0825.
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