Routt County 4-H members ready for state after strong Completion Day showing
Steamboat Springs — When Grant Birkenbine heads to Colorado Springs in a few weeks to compete at the Colorado 4-H State Shoot, it will be his final state competition as a member of the team from Routt County.
Birkenbine, who graduated in the spring, said he plans to keep shooting competitively with the Colorado State University team when he gets to college, but he isn’t letting the significance of his journey through the Routt County 4-H program go unnoticed.
“It was great placing first at our Completion Day shoot,” Birkenbine said. “I knew this was my last year, so that was really cool. ”
Birkenbine has been a regular in the local 4-H shooting club since elementary school, and at the state shooting event for the past several years, he finished first in the senior shotgun division and earned the title of Grand Champion at the 4-H Shooting Sports Completion Weekend, which was held July 23 and 24 at the Routt County Shooting Club and attracted 75 competitors, ages 8 to 18, from across the county.
The local 4-H program introduced Birkenbine to .22-caliber pistols and rifles and along the way he discovered his passion for various shotgun events. He has competed in skeet where the shooter attempts to break clay targets mechanically flung into the air at high speed from a variety of angles, trap where a single target is launched generally away from the shooter and five-stand, which is a more complicated shooting event where targets are launched from five different stations and the shooter must react in order to hit the clay targets.
Shooters compete in all three events and are placed by a combined score. The top six shooters from Completion Weekend will head to Colorado Springs to compete in a statewide event on Labor Day weekend against other teams from across Colorado. Birkenbine is cautious headed into the event but thinks the Routt County team has the potential to do well at this year’s state competition.
“We have a lot of really talented shooters on this team,” Birkenbine said. “I would say that we have a pretty good shot (at the championship) this year.”
Completion Day included the shotgun event along with archery, air rifle, air pistol, .22-caliber pistol and .22-caliber rifle events. The top six finishers in each of those events will compete at state competitions in a few weeks where they will compete for top honors as well as the chance to qualify for national-level events and possibly to be named to U.S. National shooting teams.
The 4-H state championships will take place Aug. 20 and 21 in Pueblo, and the top six shooters in the shotgun events will gather in Colorado Springs over Labor Day weekend for a similar event.
Steamboat will be represented by a number of top finishers. Grand champions at this year’s event included Grant Polman in senior compound archery, Chase delaMater in junior compound archery, Shelby Archuletta in senior recurve archery and Ari Berkley in junior recurve archery. Taylor Kirby was named grand champion in senior air pistol, and Spencer Ashley took top honors in junior air pistol.
Other grand champions included Kendra Halder in senior air rifle, Chase delaMater in junior air rifle, Spencer Ashley in junior .22 pistol, Taylor Kirby in .22 senior pistol, Kendra Halder in .22 senior rifle and Jed Kirby in junior .22 rifle. Birkenbine topped the field in senior shotgun, and Kolleen Decker was named grand champion in the junior shotgun.
Deb Holmes, who coached four programs at the Routt County Rifle Club this summer, said there has been a ton of growth in Routt County shooting programs the past couple of years. She said the .22 rifle program doubled in size this year and she saw a 30 percent increase in the shotgun club membership.
She credits the community for the momentum along with the volunteer coaches who spend their time teaching the youth of Routt County the skills they need to be competitive and the proceedures they need to stay safe. Coaches include Rick Kirby, John Halder and Dave delaMater in South Routt, Chad Day and Fran Holiday in Hayden and Deb Holmes, Tom Thurston, Logan Bankard, Alan Selch and Richard Hollenbeck in Steamboat.
The Routt County Rifle Club has also been very supportive by opening the range at times that are convenient for the young participants and providing clay targets for the shotgun programs. The rifle club also closed it doors to the public for Completion Day in order to provide a safe and competitive environment for the young shooters.
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