Routt County 4-H shooters take aim at nationals
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Routt County 4-H sent a record number of students — 34 in all — to the state shooting championships this year, and three of those competitors qualified for nationals, which will be held in Nebraska in June 2019 next June.
Taylor Kirby and Spencer Ashley, both Soroco High School students, have been in 4-H shooting sports since they were about 8 years old. This will be Kirby’s second year at nationals. She qualified in air rifle and .22 rifle but can only compete in one event.
“You can only go to nationals once per event, and last year, I was number one for air rifle, so this year, I can only compete in .22 rifle,” Kirby said.
Ashley practices with the team and with Kirby on her parent’s ranch outside of Toponas. Recent wildfires have kept the shooting range outside of Yampa closed for much of their practice season.
While Ashley started off in archery, he picked up the .22 pistol at 12 and will go to nationals for the first time after finishing second at state.
“Twenty-two pistol is definitely my favorite to shoot and has the funnest (sic) categories,” Ashley said. “Rapid fire is the most fun. It can be challenging to get into the right rhythm.”
Veteran 4-H student and recent Hayden High School graduate Richard Hallenbeck finished up his shooting career with second place at state where he shot skeet, trap and sporting clays. But since he competed at nationals last year in shotgun, 4-H will just be an awesome memory.
“Ever since I was young, I could remember shooting shotguns. It came to me natural, I like to say,” Hallenbeck said.
But now it’s time to go to work, said Hallenbeck, who hopes to one day take over his parent’s ranch near Hayden.
In the meantime, top finishers during Routt County’s 4-H shooting seem to have a couple of things in common — praise for all their volunteer coaches and a dedication to setting goals.
“Once you achieve them, then you work to achieve others,” Kirby said. “Everyone has something that naturally comes to them. I think that shooting comes naturally to me, but it’s still a lot of work … and practice.”
“Each year, I set a goal of how well I’m gonna do at each level. I began just wanting to place at county level and my goal this year was to win state. I came close,” Ashley said of his second-place finish.
When Kirby shoots at nationals in .22 rifle, it’s not just about hitting a bullseye. There are actually three disciplines they have to shoot, which includes shooting at animal silhouettes and shooting in three different positions at a bullseye target.
Ashley’s event, .22 pistol, will include a Camp Perry Round with three rounds of fire from slow to rapid fire. There’s also a silhouette round, and senior level shooters can only use one hand.
As for now, the two Soroco students will have nine months to get ready for nationals in Nebraska. While both try to practice as much as they can, shooting is an expensive sport as bullets don’t come cheap.
“A .22 pistol goes through a lot of ammo, and it’s $35 a box,” Ashley said. “The ammo can get expensive pretty fast.”
The public can help support local 4-H shooting through the Routt County CSU Extension office. Contact Tammi Eggers at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.
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