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‘Aim small, miss small’ philosophy helps teen become champion

Thursday, September 14, 2017
Photo of Archery Winners

There isn’t a better recipe for success than hard work and the desire to be great. Dominick Trujillo proved that.

The Macon County teen finished eighth in last year’s Illinois 4-H state archery contest. He wanted better, so for the past year, Dominick mastered his skill with help from his 4-H club leader and instructors at a local archery club.

His objective for this year’s meet was clear and as focused as his aim. “I want to win,” the fourth-year club member said early in the day. And, he did just that, claiming the compound bow division championship of the state contest held Saturday, Sept. 9 at the Panther Creek Bowhunters Club near Chatham. He also qualified to represent Illinois at the National 4-H Shooting Sports Contest next year.

“Aim small, miss small,” Dominick said. Instead of aiming to hit anywhere on the large three-foot target, Dominick said he concentrates solely on the black center circle. The key is concentrating and staying mentally focused on what you’re doing, he said. Dominick consistently hit center.

Dominick’s next goal is to become a licensed USA archery coach. After high school, he’ll pursue a veterinary medicine career.

Top archer in the recurve division was Jeffrey Che of Jackson County. He, too, made improvements over last year, moving from fourth in 2016 to champion in 2017.

These stories of comradery and friendship are common for the program which promotes the development of young leaders while it trains them to hit a target with bow and arrow. “It’s a big family that gets together to shoot arrows,” said Bill Mohn, state 4-H certified archery instructor.

The 7-hour contest tested the members’ strength and endurance. Youth earned points in three different types of targets. In the morning, contestants walked the wooded paths around the club property for the field and 3-D portions of the event. In field, youth shoot at paper targets from specific, stated distances up to 60 meters. Things get more difficult during the 3-D portion. Large 3-D targets are scattered throughout the woods, and youth must estimate the distance from themselves to the target in order to set their site accurately. They often must shoot through tree branches, leaves and overgrowth.

The wooded landscape also makes for a challenge if you aren’t lucky enough to hit the target. Finding lost arrows in the overgrowth is often impossible; miss the mark on the polar bear target, and your errant arrow lands in the pond.

The afternoon included nine rounds of target shooting from distances of 50, 40, and 30 meters, each round firing six arrows.

On round three of nine, Kayla Adams of Iroquois County said she was happy with her score, but that pulling was getting a little rough. “Usually I shoot 20 or 30 arrows a day,” Kayla said. “At this point, I’ve already shot about 80 arrows.”

Though archery is a game of sight, it’s also a game of sounds; the snap when the string is released, the whiz as the arrow flies, and the pop when it hits the target.

Illinois has only offered 4-H shooting sports since 2009. The project has nearly 5,500 entries each year with more than 1,000 adults certified to train 4-H members across the state. Nearly nine percent of all Illinois 4-H members enroll in at least one shooting sports project.

Many 4-H shooting sports members don’t limit their 4-H involvement to just shooting sports. Youth come to the sport for many different reasons. Cheyennah Knoll of McHenry County said she also takes food nutrition and visual arts projects in 4-H. Jessica Shilling of Edwards County is in the 4-H horse project.

Gavin Coombe of Edgar County said shooting sports is the reason he’s stayed involved in 4-H as he’s gotten older. Carson McGill of Iroquois County said he enjoys projects where he can be outdoors and out of the house. “And,” he said, “I like the people around me in archery.”

Illinois 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador Rachel Casey of Woodford County travels the state promoting membership. Rachel said that when she started 4-H, she looked up to the older youth in the club and dreamed of one day being like them. “4-H is amazing because it lets us find great role models and become great role models,” she said. “It’s easy to talk to people when you like the same things,” the teen said. She is pursuing a degree in plant sciences.

Other winners from the state contest in compound archery included Steve Hilgers of Mason County, second; Jacob Maschino of Edgar County, third; Gavin Coombe of Edgar County, fourth; John Reutter of McLean County, fifth; Carson McGill of Iroquois County, sixth; Jessica Shilling of Edwards County, seventh; Johnathan Brookens of Christian County, eighth;  Dillon White of Morgan County, ninth; and Lawrence Shilling of Edwards County, tenth.

In addition to Che, top recurve bow division winners included Alexander Ford of DuPage County, second; Jamie Anderson of McHenry County, third; Ben Snider of Mason County, fourth; and Cheyanne Bihlmaier of McHenry County, fifth.

McHenry County fielded the top team in both compound and recurve divisions. 

Although the contest is competitive by nature, University of Illinois Extension Shooting Sports Educator Dan Dawson reminded families that the event is more an educational opportunity than raw competition. “The skills of teamwork, communication, decision making, problem solving, and leadership are our first and most important lessons we teach in the 4-H shooting sports program,” Dawson said.

The top competitors from each division are invited to attend the national competition in June. The Illinois 4-H Foundation financially supports the Illinois 4-H shooting sports team.