Soroco shooting competitors represent Routt County at national championships

Soroco High School students and Routt County 4-H members Leah Halder and Dorian Hotchkiss competed in shooting nationals late last month. (Courtesy Amanda Laman)

Leah Halder got into shooting sports when she made a bet with her father.

“I wanted a phone because all my friends had phones,” Halder said. “I bet my dad that if I could place at state, he had to give me a phone.”

Halder, 17, went on to place at state that year, and true to his word, her father got her a phone. She was happy with her new ability to communicate with her friends, but she was also hooked on shooting.

She had been introduced to the sport years earlier since her sister competed but had only shot two or three times herself before the bet with her father.

Three years later, she’s one of the best air rifle shooters in the nation, as she finished 11th in one event at the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska, cracked the top 15 in two more events and finished in the top 25 in another in a field of 67 competitors.

Dorian Hotchkiss, 16, will be a sophomore at Soroco High School next year and also represented Routt County at nationals. He went to compete with a small bore pistol, in which he finished 21st overall of 49 competitors.

“I was a little bit nervous but pretty confident because I was the No. 1 shooter in the state,” Hotchkiss said. “So, I was confident in my shooting skills, but going up against the whole nation was the nerve-wracking part.”

He took 13th overall in slow fire, which isn’t typically his best event. Hotchkiss usually excels at the rapid and timed fire events, but nationals puts a twist on it. At nationals, the event is called Camp Perry.

The targets are facing away from the shooter and then spin to face the shooter when the timer starts. He earned 20th in Camp Perry and 24th in silhouettes.

“It’s like you shoot right when the target appears,” Hotchkiss said. “It might have (thrown me off). Also, it was super hot and humid, which we’re not really used to.”

Dorian Hotchkiss, a Soroco sophomore, competed at 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Nebraska late last month. He finished 21st overall in the small bore pistol discipline. (Courtesy Tami Foth)

Like Hotchkiss, 2021 was the first year Halder attended nationals, but Halder also qualified last year. However, the event was canceled due to the pandemic.

The Soroco senior was on a team of four girls, a somewhat rare thing. She wasn’t totally surprised by having all girls on her team, since her sister was on an all-girls team at nationals once, too. All four girls hail from Colorado and qualified through the state event.

“I think it’s more of a man’s sport, so having a lot of girls doing what is thought of as a man’s sport is kind of fun, because then you go and you’re kind of kicking the boys’ butts,” Halder said.

Shooting doesn’t divide competitors by gender but, rather, by what gun they are using.

Halders’ Colorado air rifle team finished first in 3p, or three position shooting, third in silhouettes and overall and fifth in the standing competition.

“I think I did pretty well,” Halder said. “My second day wasn’t the best. It’s definitely a lot of fun, and it’s something I would recommend if someone has the chance to do it.”

Halder was most proud of her silhouette performance in which she finished 11th individually.

Hotchkiss is hoping to return as well, and he’s looking to improve on his muzzle loader skills. He comes from a family that loves to hunt and his uncle hunts elk with a muzzleloader, so he’s a little familiar with the discipline. Routt County 4-H doesn’t have a muzzleloader leader at the moment, but a coach may acquire the certification.

“That’s the biggest challenge, is finding a coach,” Hotchkiss said. “And then just practice a lot to get better.”

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