The 2019 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships were June 23-28 at the Heartland Public Shooting Park in Grand Island, Neb., and for the first time, a competitor from Becker County 4-H was among the participants.
Zeb Lewis, who will be a junior this fall at Lake Park-Audubon High School in Lake Park, competed as part of the Minnesota compound archery team.
"Compound bows use a pulley system," said Zeb, explaining how the bow he used differs from the more traditional recurve bow that has been in use since ancient times.
"They (compound bows) have been around since the '60s," he added.
The compound archery team included three other archers from across Minnesota: Rachel Withers, Brady Cardwell and Patrick Smith. They were coached by Kevin Hoeper.
"We finished right about in the middle of the pack," said Zeb, adding that the Minnesota foursome placed 13th out of 24 teams.
Individually, Zeb placed 85th out of 104 archers. Withers came in 10th.
The competition began June 25 with the FITA round. It's a form of target shooting competition used in international and world championship archery events. Its name comes from the fact that the standards are authorized by the Fédération Internationale de Tir à l'Arc (FITA), the world governing body of the sport. Each contestant shoots 144 arrows; aiming 36 of them at each of four distances.
"The first round was a little challenging," Zeb said. "I've never shot a FITA round before."
Though he has competed in state archery events before, this was Zeb's first trip to the national competition - and also his last, at least in the compound archery competition.
"You can't go for more than one year in a particular discipline," explained Zeb's mother Mary, who along with husband Shannon, accompanied their son on the trip.
The national shooting sports competition includes both compound and recurve archery as well as air rifle, air pistol, .22-caliber rifle, .22-caliber pistol, shotgun, muzzleloading and hunting skills.
The second round of competition, June 26, was the field round.
"You shoot random targets at different set distances," Zeb said. "That one was fun."
The final day of competition June 27 was the 3-D round, which involved shooting at three-dimensional targets made to resemble live animals.
"Some people really struggled with that," Zeb said. The competition designers placed the targets in places that were hard to hit, like between obstacles, or where the perceived distance to the target was made intentionally deceptive.
Zeb, however, enjoyed that round a great deal. He has competed in trap shooting in the past.
There were 672 competitors at the national 4-H event, including 43 from Minnesotal, while the rest hailed from 36 other states.
"It was a lot of fun," Zeb said. "I really enjoyed meeting so many new people. Every day, you would shoot with different people, from other states, and they were all really good sports. You could sit and talk with each other in between shots, and it really felt like they were friends."
"The parents could watch, but we couldn't talk with them (because of the 'no coaching' rule during active competition), though we could talk with each other," Mary said. "There was such good sportsmanship - it was just wonderful. There was no negativity, no heckling. They would just go up and shoot."
In fact, Zeb added, his fellow competitors were very helpful and encouraging with each other in between rounds.
"It was really fun," he added. "I think I'm going to stick with it (shooting sports) for a while. It's still fun for me to go out to the range once a week and shoot."
Zeb said he would like to see more Becker County 4-H'ers get involved in shooting sports. For more information on how to do that, contact the local University of Minnesota Extension office at 218-846-7328, Ext. 7105, or stop in at 1120 Eighth St. SE during regular office hours, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.