In a few days and 800 miles, 14 young Illinois 4-H members will step on to the largest outdoor shooting sports arena for teens. More than 700 4-H youth from 36 states will arrive in Grand Island, Neb. where they’ll put months of practice to the test at the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships June 25-30.
The Illinois youth earned the right to compete on the national scene in state 4-H archery, rifle, and shotgun contests in the fall of 2016. “This is the largest group Illinois has ever sent to national competition since the program began in 2009,” said Dan Dawson, University of Illinois Extension state shooting sports educator. “Most have trained throughout the winter and spring with dedicated volunteer coaches to be ready for this moment in their lives.”
"This is the major competition in the country for 4-H shooting sports youth," said Steve Pritchard, Nebraska Extension educator and coordinator of Nebraska's 4-H shooting sports program. Fifty-four national 4-H champions, both individual and teams, will be named during the competition.
“What’s most impressive is that all 14 families are attending with their delegates,” said Dawson. “Families have invested both time and money to support their 4-H members in this remarkable opportunity, truly making it a 4-H family event.”
The Illinois 4-H Foundation supports a portion of the expense for the national competition. “The Illinois 4-H Foundation recognizes the tremendous effort and training these young people have put in to get to this elite status,” said Angie Barnard, Foundation executive director. “We are proud to stand with them in this national contest.”
Competing in the compound archery division are Isaac Adams of Woodford County, Rachel Casey of Woodford County, Sarah Fandel of Woodford County, and Steve Hilgers of Mason County. The team is coached by Bill Mohn, Springfield.
Competing in the recurve archery division are Alexandra Gast, Daniel Frank, and Matthew Westfallen, all of McHenry County. The team is coached by Michelle Frank.
Competing in the shotgun division are Brandon Batchelder of Logan County, Brent Alman of Rock Island County, Trent Finchum of Edgar County, and Jacob Maschino of Edgar County. Bill Peterson, Taylor Ridge, coaches the team.
Competing in air rifle is M. Couri of Kendall County. Competing in the smallbore .22 rifle division are Krzsztof Gajda and Cheyenne Enderson, both of Winnebago County.
Currently 2,600 youth participate in 4-H shooting sports in Illinois each year. That number has remained consistent for the past five years. “As 4-H members age out of the program, new youth are finding the excitement of shooting sports,” Dawson said. Illinois offers project work in archery, shotgun, rifle, pistol, and hunting and wildlife.
Since 2009, more than 1,000 adult volunteers have been trained to implement the program in Illinois.
“Shooting is simply the subject matter that we use to do what 4-H does so well, prepare and empower young people with the skills they need to be successful in life,” said Dawson.