Record Number of Participants Compete in National 4-H Shooting Invitational

By  | 

Shooting sports are the fastest growing youth 4-H program, with more than 306,000 participants nation wide, but only the toughest competitors have made it to Grand Island this week.

"It takes hours, hours, hours of practice," 16-year-old Missouri team member Hunter Brumbaugh says. "I practice personally three days out of a week."

That's what it takes to compete in the National 4-H Shooting Invitational, held annually.

More than 500 competitors from 33 states, plus their coaches and families, are in Grand Island packing the Heartland Public Shooting Park and Fonner Park buildings all week.

"Over the course of the week, there's 27 different events that our 4-Hers compete in," Match Director Steve Pritchard says.

Pritchard says the competition brings together the best of the best in the country.

"There's more skills to it than one might think," Brumbaugh says.

Dan Porter is an air rifle coach for the Minnesota team. He says it's a sport that takes practice and dedication, just like any other.

"They don't have to have the endurance of a runner, a soccer player, but they have to have mental endurance," Porter says. "This is a mental sport."

It's also a sport that's quickly gaining popularity.

Conrad Arnold, Chairman of the National 4-H Shooting Sports Committee, says this year brings a record number of youth participants.

"It is hugely popular," Porter says. "It's growing leaps and bounds, and I think it'll just keep getting bigger."

It's the third year Grand Island has been the host city for the national competition.

"We're very lucky to have it back here," Pritchard says. "Outstanding facilities, just hands down."

Arnold says with those facilities easily able to handle the growing number of participants, Grand Island could soon be the competition's permanent home.

The competition is already scheduled to return to Grand Island in 2013.