URBANA, Ill. – There’s no stopping 4-H ingenuity and drive. Even COVID-19 couldn’t stop the dedicated 4-H members from completing their 4-H shooting sports project this fall. What was normally held as four large state meets transitioned to small group in-person outings, virtually recorded by one of dozens of University of Illinois Extension 4-H volunteers.

The transition may have lowered overall participation from previous years, but the spirit of the competitors was mighty, says Curt Sinclair, Illinois Extension 4-H shooting sports and environmental education specialist.

“Our goal was to create lasting life lessons while having fun, just as much fun as an in-person event,” Sinclair says. “Virtual contests are an efficient and fun way to measure your skill development with other 4-H peers while still teaching sportsmanship, responsibility, discipline, and mastery.” 

With this new virtual competition model, 4-H clubs competed locally, while the State 4-H office tallied the scores online, allowing the competition to go on without the need for travel or large groups. After a five-month hiatus on competitions because of COVID-19 meeting restrictions, 4-H members were ready to get back to competition.

The contest ran four months, September to December, to encourage clubs to continue practicing their chosen disciplines.  When the contest ended, over 420 scores had been submitted in both junior and senior divisions of shotgun, air rifle, compound archery, and recurve archery.  

“You wouldn’t believe the smiles on the faces,” says Tom Bates, 4-H volunteer for the Piatt County-based Mid-State Marksmen. “That was my reward; to be able to say ‘we’re going to start again.’ They were ready and willing to do whatever was needed to get this going.” 

As for the future of youth shooting sports, Sinclair thinks virtual elements are here to stay. 

“The virtual contest actually allowed for an expansion of opportunities, including the addition of a junior division, which would not have been possible with the time and space limitations of face-to-face contests,” Sinclair says. “We will definitely continue to offer versions of this type of virtual contests, even after in-person events begin again. These programs won’t replace face-to-face experiences, but will supplement them.”  

4-H club members look forward to the competition aspect of shooting sports. “Having pride at working at a skill and watching them be able to coach and encourage each other is amazing,” Bates says. “They love to see each other succeed.” 

Winners in the senior division of the compound bow contest include: Levi Nusz, Stark County, first; Jacob Nusz, Stark County, second; Brianna Hayes, Peoria County, third; Alexa Salverson, Peoria County, fourth; Braylee Gilmore, Macoupin County, fifth; Kolton Inglett, Franklin County, sixth; Genavieve Zengel, Adams County, seventh; Sierra Miller, Adams County, eighth; Courtney Kirby, Adams County, ninth; and Alexander Welch, Stark County, tenth.

Junior division winners in compound bow include: Payton Harding, Macoupin County, first; Logan Grant, McDonough County, second; Charlee Dugger, Macoupin County, third; Cody Kirby, Adams County, fourth; Jacob Alexander, Adams County, fifth; Wyld Gilmore, Macoupin County, sixth; Reid Carson, McDonough County, seventh; Nathan Zengel, Adams County, eighth; Ben Stevenson, Franklin County, ninth; and Nathaniel Kern, Franklin County, tenth.

Senior division winners in the shotgun division include Derek Sample, Franklin County, first; Max Bremer, Madison County, second tie; Zachary Skurat, Franklin County, second tie; Jessilyn White, Mason County, fourth; Seth Clark, Franklin County, fifth; Owen Dye, Mason County, sixth; David McLearin, Piatt County, seventh tie; Logan Sikorski, Piatt County, seventh tie; Seth Loucks, Franklin County, ninth; Ben Cribbs, Piatt County, tenth tie; and Cooper Thomas, Mason County, tenth tie.

Junior shotgun winners include Ryan Dye, Mason County, first; Nathaniel Kern, Franklin County, second; Benaiah Bremer, Madison County, third tie; Collin Perron, Clark County, third tie; Ethan McDowell, Madison County, fifth; Dennison Clark, Franklin County, sixth; Cliff Strack, Piatt County, seventh; Remyngton Fuller, Franklin County, eighth; Grayson Clark, Franklin County, ninth, and Tayler Karnes, Franklin County, tenth.

The top five winners in the senior air rifle division are all Madison County members and include Gloria Bremer, first; Max Bremer, second; Raegen Gross, third; Alexis Gross, fourth; and Sara Harrison, fifth. Four of the top five winners in the junior air rifle division also came from Madison County. They include Benaiah Bremer, first; Ashleigh Gross, second; Sydney Gross, third; and Ryley Gross, fourth. Fifth place winner, Austin Kluthe, is from Mason County.

Top competitors in the recurve senior division include Ben Snider, Mason County, first; December Tracy, Stark County, second; and Alexandria Riviere, Mason County, third. The junior winners, all from Mason County, include Eve Snider, first; Ryan Dye, second; and Austin Kluthe, third.

SOURCE:  Curt Sinclair, Extension Specialist – 4-H Shooting Sports and Environmental Ed, University of Illinois Extension
WRITER:  Carissa Nelson, Media Communications Manager, 4-H State Office

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