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It was supposed to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience; now it’s another hard life lesson for 23 teens who have faced a series of hard lessons since the worldwide health crisis. These teens, selected as the top competitors of the Illinois 4-H shooting sports program, were to have been in Nebraska at the National 4-H Shooting Sports Championships. For the safety of the competitors, families, staff, and volunteers, the 2020 event was canceled.

You won’t find a bigger cheerleader for the youth and the sport than Curt Sinclair, University of Illinois Extension 4-H natural resources and shooting sports specialist.

“Illinois 4-H had six teams of 4-H members ready to roll to this national contest this summer; all with supportive families that were ready to make the time and financial commitment to attend the national shoot,” Sinclair says. “With the COVID situation, the prudent decision to cancel this event, which draws over 5,000 people together each summer, was made last April.”

The cancellation was gut-wrenching for Sinclair who had watched the youth hone their talent throughout the winter months after being selected during the 2019 fall state contests. Still, the veteran Extension staff member knew that this is one of many challenges these young people will face in their life.

“4-H is building their resiliency, their perseverance, their determination, and their problem-solving skills to face what life throws at them,” Sinclair says. 4-H Shooting Sports builds character, first and foremost.

“Mastery in 4-H is progressive; it begins by following the lead of a caring adult volunteer, then committing oneself to practice and maintaining focus to reach personal goals,” Sinclair says. “That’s what these and other youth in the 4-H shooting sports program have done.”

The event is much more than shooting excellence, says Sinclair. “By far, the most important piece is meeting peers from around the country and interacting with them on common ground.”

Staff and families comment on the sportsmanship and personal growth displayed during the contest. “Being surrounded by other elite shooting athletes raises everyone’s game,” Sinclair says.

State team members include:

Air rifle: Gloria Bremer, Edwardsville; Paul Knipmeyer, Heyworth; Braden May, Metropolis; and Hannah Hedman, Crystal Lake.

Small bore rifle: Grace Shepard, Beecher; Morgan Drozs, Farmer City; Winnie Quiram, Danvers; and Marissa Hughes, Shirley.

Shotgun: Cole Haynes, Tonica; Kaden Mott, Mt. Pulaski; Blake Bryant, Mt. Pulaski; and JB Bremer, Edwardsville.

Recurve Archery: Ben and Isaac Snider, Havana; Michael Perkins, Marengo; and Corrine Elswick, Hebron.

Compound Archery: Levi Nusz, Wyoming; Carter Carpenter, Iuka; Carson McGill, Ashum; and Brianna Hayes, Brimfield.

Air Pistol: Justin Pierard, Bloomington; Collin Haney, Metamora; and Alexander Ford, Elmhurst.

Coaches for the teams include Kevin Knipmeyer, Kurt Willoughby, Bill Peterson, Ted Snider, and Brad Haney.

Four Illinois youth have been selected to join 90 other youth as 4-H shooting sports Ambassadors. Representing Illinois for the year will be Braden May, Massac County; Shandre Willoughby, McLean County; Cole Haynes, LaSalle County; and Paul Knipmeyer, McLean County.

State shooting sports contests are usually held in the fall, and planning remains fluid at this time.

SOURCE: Curt Sinclair, 4-H Natural Resources and Shooting Sports Specialist, Illinois Extension
WRITER: Judy Mae Bingman, Marketing and Communications Manager, Illinois Extension