The crowd couldn’t help but cheer when Brandon Austin hit his final clay target. The target was his 100th in a row and capped his championship win of the 2018 Illinois 4-H State 4-H Shotgun Shoot held September 15 in Bunker Hill.
“I’m still shaking,” the teen said after hitting the final target. “I’ve never hit 100 in a row, or even 75 in a row.”
The teen was humble in his acknowledgment of the talent on display at the annual 4-H contest. “There are some competitors here that I know are better shooters than me,” Brandon said.
The Knox County 4-H member admitted to having some jitters going into the final round of 25 shots. To handle the nerves, Brandon said he repeated the same procedure for every shot: “plant my feet; exhale on the guy shooting before me; inhale, then pull the trigger on my exhale.”
Brandon has been involved with many aspects of the 4-H program, including serving as president of his club and serving on the county federation. In addition to shooting sports, he has taken dog obedience, geology, cooking, and photography.
Brandon said it was important to believe he could win. “If you’re not thinking about breaking the target, you’re not going to break it,” he said.
Competition in the top ten spots was intense. Logan Hawkins of Grundy County and Michael Lemberg of Rock Island County were tied at the end of four rounds, each hitting 98 targets. In a shoot-off, Logan claimed second place hitting another 25 straight shots. Michael ended the day in third.
Alexander York of Carroll County placed fourth. Another tie forced two play-off rounds with Dakota Lamb of Piatt County finishing in fifth and Ethan Sandhorn of Logan finishing in sixth.
Brandon Batchelder of Rock Island County earned the seventh spot over Cole Haynes of LaSalle County who finished in eighth place. Both initially shot a 94. Braydin Lanners of Logan County finished ninth, and L. Sikorski of Piatt County finished in tenth, edging out Megan Bierman of Effingham County who finished in 11th after a tie-breaker round.
Lexis Caslin of Logan County said shooting sports teaches patience and concentration. “It’s different than other sports.”
Volunteer leader Bill Peterson of Rock Island County coached the 2017 state shotgun team which placed fourth in national competition. “You’ve never shot your worse score until you quit,” the veteran marksman said.
Peterson’s team again claimed the top team award in the 2018 contest. Other top teams included Piatt County, second; Mason County, third; Franklin County, fourth; and White County, fifth.
University of Illinois Extension interim 4-H shooting sports educator Curt Sinclair praised the youth. The top half of the 60 competitors scored 85 or above.
Youth with an interest in shooting sports are encouraged to learn more by contacting the local U of I Extension office in each county.