Routt County 4-H shooters aim for state
There’s been a small explosion in Routt County’s 4-H shooting sports scene as a bevy of kids 9 and older head to state competition in a few weeks.
And it’s coaches like Deb Holmes in Steamboat Springs and Dave de la Mater in South Routt, who, despite their real jobs, make it a point to be there for kids.
“Sawyer (Vietanen) qualified for state, and he’s just a little bitty guy. He uses my hunting shotgun,” said Holmes of 9-year-old Sawyer, who is going to state during his first year in 4-H shotgun competition.
Shotgun consists of three types of shooting: skeet, trap and sporting clays.
Sawyer’s dad Darrin Vietanen helps Holmes coach the shotgun team, and Vietanen’s oldest son Mavrick is the junior Routt County overall shotgun champion.
“I started shooting when I was 5 years old,” said 12-year-old Mavrick. “I went hunting with my dad when I was 3. He used to carry me on his back through the woods.”
Holmes said about four years ago there were just a few people on the rifle and shotgun teams, now there’s about 20. In fact, she often uses her own guns to teach the children and even lets them use her shotguns in competition.
“It’s a very expensive sport,” Holmes said. “The past few years the Routt County Rifle Club has generously paid for the rounds, but our squad is growing big.”
In South Routt County, archery coach Dave de la Mater and .22 coach Rick Kirby have also seen their teams take off. De la Mater’s son Chase won Routt County’s compound bow championship as a junior last year, and this year, he took the top spot as a senior member — those older than 12.
“It’s grown immensely,” said Coach de la Mater. “It starts with kids getting excited, then their friends get excited. They have a lot of fun. They’re serious, but they have fun too.”
The maturity of the youngsters when it comes to their guns is not a surprise. Young Chase de la Mater shoots both guns and bows.
“We really do take this seriously … safety is first,” Chase said. “You don’t want to get hurt when handling a firearm.”
The local 4-H shooters who qualified for state come from all over the county and get to know each other during practices. In North Routt, up by the town of Clark, 13-year-old Kai Lancaster is headed to state for the second year in shotgun. He took a break from his summer job to explain why shooting is important.
“My friends are in 4-H, but I didn’t have anywhere to put animals so I do shooting sports,” Lancaster said. “It gives me a chance to participate in 4-H without animals.”
Young Lancaster placed third in junior overall shotgun.
Back in South Routt, 13-year-old Alex Colby had to make the decision to shoot at state this year instead of selling his goat at the fair. He took first in this year’s junior compound bow competition. He said parents are required to be present during practice.
“My dad started getting into archery after I did. We kind of had a learning experience together,” said Alex. “I even taught him some stuff.”
Indeed parents are required to be present, so it’s a surprise when you learn that Holmes, who has no children in 4-H, is the main coach the shotgun team depends on to keep the sport going.
“She does not get paid to coach these kids,” said parent Lisa Lancaster. “She spends three days a week coaching them and this year was working a graveyard shift in the City Market bakery, sometimes up to 60 hours a week … she did not miss one practice.”
Holmes said the reward is all hers.
“Seeing a 13-year-old step up to help one of his teammates having trouble … that touches my heart,” Holmes said. “When I see that, I feel like I’m giving something back. There’s a legacy I can be rewarded with.”
A total of 76 Routt County 4-H shooting sports members competed in the recent Routt County Shooting Sports completion.
The young shooters competed for placings in shotgun, .22 rifle, .22 pistol, archery, air rifle and air pistol. The youth are supported and taught by over 20 adult 4-H leaders throughout the county during weekly practice sessions.
A total of 24 Routt County 4-H members qualified for the 4-H State Shoot, which will be held in Colorado Springs later this month.
State qualifiers include: Harrison Ashley, Spencer Ashley, Alex Colby, Jack Colfer, Chase Delamater, Darrel Ebaugh, Kendra Halder, Richard Hallenbeck, Bridget Hazlett, Michael Henry, Gibson Kenney, Jed Kirby, Tyalor Kirby, Kai Lancaster, Tucker LImberg, Hailey Minnick, Kalob More, Grant Pohlman, Taylor Powell and Justin Stanko.
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