A crowd of young 4-H archery students lined up at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds shooting range Tuesday for a shot at state fair glory.
About 18 students competed in the county fair archery tournament, the last of several 4-H Club shooting sports competitions in the event. Organizers said the tournament was smaller this year than in the past, but there were more archers than usual in the Junior category. The four overall winners will be eligible to compete at the Colorado State Fair.
Rusty Hamilton, the Montezuma County 4-H shooting superintendent, said the archery program’s membership has diminished recently, like the rest of 4-H, but he’s encouraged about the number of juniors who signed up to shoot. He said only four seniors would be graduating from the program this year.
“We have a lot of younger kids, which is a good thing,” he said. “In the years to come, if they stick with it, we’re just going to keep going. Every year, we’ll have more young ones.”
The archers were divided into four groups depending on their age and whether they were shooting recurve or compound bows. Seniors got to shoot twice, while juniors shot once in each category. The winner in each category got a blue ribbon and a commemorative chair, while the chance to go on to the state fair was awarded to those with the overall highest score.
Three of the overall grand and reserve champions – Tel Hamilton, Jaden Karo and Cael Schmittel – were seniors. But the reserve champion for recurve shooting, Braden Schmittel, was a junior who got the second-highest overall score. Hamilton said that rarely happens.
Danika Oliver, 11, competed with a pink compound bow alongside just two other girls in the tournament. She said she started shooting with 4-H three years ago.
“It seemed fun, and I never really shot a weapon before, so I thought I’d try it,” she said. “I’m still enjoying it.”
Although she wasn’t one of the grand champions in archery, she did manage to land a prize ribbon for her archery-themed display in the 4-H exhibit hall.
The archery team is open to 4-H students ages 8-18. Hamilton has coached the program for many years alongside Brad Wright, and he said it’s seen plenty of success. Montezuma County archers have made it to the national 4-H competition several times.
One of the graduating seniors, Isaiah Wright, had competed at the State Fair six times. Although the college he wants to attend doesn’t have an archery program, he said he plans to continue bow hunting and shooting at his own range. He also hopes to encourage more people his age to get into archery.
“I’ve been shooting archery since I could pull a bow back,” he said. “The college I’m going to is Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, and they said that an archery program could be started if there was enough interest, so if I can find enough kids who are interested, I could maybe start something there.”