Vivian Marcellus prepares to fire at her target recently during 4-H Shooting Sports archery practice at the National Guard Armory. L&T photos/Larry Phillips
• L&T staff report
The archery teams members in Seward County 4-H shooting sports are wrapping up their season Tuesday with a “Shoot-Off Challenge.”
Though all are members of the Seward County Sharp Shooters team, they will be competing for winners certificates at three range distances.
“We’re allowing them to challenge each other, if for nothing else but bragging rights for awhile,” said shooting sports coordinator Larry Phillips. “And I say ‘awhile,’ because everybody is advancing at a good clip in their accuracy – a third-place finisher today could well outshoot everybody tomorrow.”
Competition is not the important thing in 4-H shooting sports, according to Phillips.
“The number one thing here is safety, and we stress their biggest competition is themselves,” he explained. “We try to get them to set goals – to do better each week, each season – and it’s amazing to see how many that were here last year have progressed.”
Last year, around a dozen youth were participating on the archery team, but this year has seen that number double. Phillips claimed the growth has been mainly word-of-mouth.
“We had only about six boys in BB gun a year and a half ago,” he said. “Now we have 54 kids signed up in shooting sports – and about half are girls. They’re either in BB gun, archery or shotgun trap – some in one or two or all three.”
Archery has become so popular, Phillips and certified archery instructor Tracy Gutierrez have decided next year to spilt the children up and shoot two days a week instead of all on one day.
“This way we’ll have more one-on-one time with the kids and can help them more to learn the proper way to do things,” Gutierrez said. “They are really fast learners and spending more time with each one will help them a lot.”
Numerous individuals and businesses have also helped 4-H shooting sports to grow, according to Phillips.
“We’ve had great support from the community,” he said. “They’ve always been there when we asked for help in putting on our fundraisers, like the 4-H Benefit Trap Shoot, or for just helping buy equipment or supplies.
“We can’t thank them enough, and we’re blessed to live in a part of the country where people believe in keeping the age-old traditions of shooting sports alive,” Phillips said. “And what’s great is this allows us to offer local children all this fun for free. You can’t beat that.
“I wish everyone could see the face of a beginner when that child gets hiis or her first bullseye in BB gun or with an arrow they shot, or that first clay target when it explodes from a shot they made – that’s priceless,” he added.
ABOVE: Seward County 4-H Shooting Sports archery team members pose before practice recently. Team members present that day include, front row from left to right: Angelique Reever, Jennifer Reever. Alexis Hernandez, Caden Caballero, Eric Matthews, Cody Bremenkamp, Hunter Werkmeister and Vivian Marcellus. Back row from left to right, Alaina Hernandez, Brandon Yorio, Ethan Frerichs, Kyle Gragg, Dylan Arnold and Emily Bremenkamp.
LEFT: Seward County 4-H Shooting Sports archery instructor Tracy Gutierrez, left center, looks over the shoulder of Ethan Frerichs as he prepares to release an arrow downrange.