Greg Shaner jokingly, and fondly, recalled how well his members of the junior rifle team from Rifle did at the Colorado 4-H State Shooting Championships at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo.
“I think,” Shaner said, “everyone was sick of us by the end of the weekend.”
Indeed, as the team full of kids from Garfield County did more than hold its own during the tournament from Aug. 17-18. The team from Rifle swept the events it competed in, claiming an individual state championship in all of the events it entered.
The performance stunned nearly everyone at the event — especially the team from Rifle.
“I knew we had a good chance of doing well at the tournament,” Shaner said. “There’s no way we would have expected to sweep.”
The 4-H State Shooting Championships consists of youth from ages 8-18 competing in either small-bore .22, air rifle, air pistol, archery, muzzle loading or shotgun events, who must qualify through individual county qualifying events. That weekend, 1,073 youth from across Colorado entered competitions in smallbore .22, air rifle, air pistol, muzzle loading and archery. The shotgun shooting competition takes place in Pueblo on Labor Day weekend.
Garfield County 4-H had a delegation of 35 youth representing every category of each discipline in both junior and senior divisions. The junior division shined the most, however, with all of the state titles it won.
William Shaner was the biggest individual winner, bringing home five state championships in Smallbore .22, Hunt, Sporter and Three Position, Air Rifle Three Position and Olympic Offhand. Andrew Kingen won an individual state championship in Junior Air Rifle Sporter 4-Position, and both compete with USA Shooting in addition to 4-H.
So when it came to a pressure-packed event like the state championships that weekend, competing there wasn’t a big deal.
“I try to look at big competitions like that as just practice,” William Shaner said. “That way it’s a lot less stressful, and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t shoot that good.”
On the team side, the Junior Smallbore .22 rifle team of Shaner, Kingen, Austin Herrick, Donovan Hill, Kallista Lewis, Erik Krauth and Makenzie Neil won three state team titles for the Junior Smallbore .22 Hunt, Sporter 4-Position and International Three-Position classes. The Junior Air Rifle team (Shaner, Kingen, Herrick and Hill) swept the competition, winning four state team titles for Junior Air Rifle Utility, Sporter 4-Position, International Three-Position and Olympic Offhand classes.
And they’re playing it off like it’s not a big deal.
“Really, we don’t think about any of that,” Hill said. “We just want to go out there to have fun.”
That’s a trait that Greg Shaner said makes this group truly unique.
“This has to be one of the most humble groups out there,” he said. “A lot of kids their age would be like, ‘Oh yeah! We rocked it!’ Not these guys. That makes this group that much more special.”