Routt County 4-H shooters continue legacy of success
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Consistency is key in shooting. The same motions, the same routine, the same breathing, all add up to the same accurate shot.
Each competitor might have maintained that uniformity while aiming, but the season itself lacked consistency across the board.
For a while, Routt County 4-H competitive shooting teams thought they’d have a traditional state shoot. Then, they thought it might be canceled, before finally learning the new format. The local shooters competed at home but sent their scores to the state.
“It was definitely a letdown. We were all waiting and waiting as we’ve been doing through the whole season, like what next?” said Tami Eggers, Routt County CSU 4-H youth development agent. “When they canceled it, it was a bummer. When they first canceled it, they didn’t have anything in place. When they pulled this together and offered it as an alternate, a virtual shoot, it was pretty exciting. It was better than nothing.”
Despite the entirely new atmosphere, Routt County performed incredibly well, qualifying two senior team members for nationals in the summer.
For the second straight year, the senior shotgun skeet team took home first place at the state level, and the air pistol team finished fourth. At an individual level, senior team member Dorian Hotchkiss took second in the .22 pistol, qualifying for nationals. Leah Halder qualified for two events, earning fifth in both the .22 rifle and the air rifle competitions.
The junior team members also had impressive showings. Teagan Herold finished first in the .22 hunt discipline and earned second in the .22 4P discipline. He also competed in eight other events, earning a top-10 finish in every single one.
Hotchkiss said the local competition was certainly different, but he was able to get in the right mindset to bring his performance to the next level.
The Soroco freshman’s preparation started 12 hours before his first shot was fired. He refrained from eating carbs and sugar ahead of his competition, since they tend to make people shakier. Instead, he opted for protein in the form of nuts and beef jerky.
Once he got up the line, he completed his routine.
“You get up there, and you get ready. I just clear my mind out of everything else and get comfortable,” Hotchkiss said. “I take a bunch of deep breaths to slow my heart rate, and that makes you more steady. Once I’m all calmed down, I pull up and then I shoot.”
Hotchkiss entered 4-H competitive shooting because his whole family enjoys hunting. What started as a hobby may help him get established in his chosen career path.
“I want to have a career in guiding and outfitting for hunting,” he said. “I’m shooting so many different disciplines at state and now nationals. That’ll help to build my hunting and guiding career.”
Herold got into competitive shooting because his father shot competitively with 4-H when he was a kid.
“It improves your focus,” Herold said. “(It teaches you) perseverance and overcoming obstacles.”
“It requires a lot of self-discipline,” Teagan’s father Chip added. “And it’s a lot of fun.”
The success of the program falls not only on the parents who introduce their kids to the sport and encourage their participation but also on the coaches, who are all volunteers. Many are parents of participants but not all.
“Every one of them goes to a three-day training for whatever discipline they’re coaching in to be coached on safety and life skills and 4-H leadership,” Eggers said. “It’s more than just learning to shoot. It’s a package deal when you do it in 4-H. I tell people I have the best coaches for a youth organization. Because they’re not paid, they’re just passionate about what they do.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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