Two shooters from Moffat County recently represented Colorado at the 4-H 2013 National Shooting Sports Invitational. Now they have two weeks to try and make a repeat appearance.
Dylan Villa, an incoming senior at Moffat County High School, and Dakota Lee, a member of the Class of 2013, went up against the best the nation has to offer in youth shooting when they made up two of the four members from Colorado’s air pistol team at the national shoot.
The Invitational took place June 24 through 29 in Grand Island, Neb., and is based on the results from the 2012 state shoots. So Villa and Lee had prepared for the national competition for nearly 10 months since learning they would attend last August. Taking the winter to dwell on it wasn’t such a bad thing, they said.
“I think I would have been more overwhelmed (shooting at nationals after state last year), just trying to get mentally ready,” Lee said. “My dad and (coach) Alvin (Luker) were helping us with things we didn’t even realize or think about.”
So after practicing through the winter, they felt ready to perform at the highest level. But after shooting at the small county competition and then the larger statewide shoot, they still couldn’t prepare for what they would encounter at nationals.
“Walking in for awards, there were just thousands of people there, it was mind blowing,” Villa said.
Those sheer numbers were a bit intimidating for the shooters as the competition got going.
“I was shaking cause I was so nervous the first day,” Villa said. “It was good we had (coach Jody Lee) there because he calmed me down.”
The entire Colorado team improved throughout the week, culminating in their strongest performance in the combined rapid fire/timed fire discipline. There, all four members placed in the top 35 nationally, with Villa placing eighth and Lee 12th.
Across all air pistol events, Villa placed 20th and Lee took 22nd nationally, the type of results they were extremely pleased with. But the experience at the national shoot went far beyond performing well.
“I would never replace this experience,” Lee said. “We got to see lightning bugs, a tornado practically chased Dylan on the ride in here, and our team had so much fun.”
Both Villa and Lee raved about the rapport they developed quickly with teammates Morgan Wallace and Grayson Henderson, fast friends that made the Colorado team a tight-knit group.
Now it’s almost time for the two to try and get back to nationals. The Colorado state shooting competition takes place Aug. 17, with the top four shooters in each discipline (.22 rifle, air rifle, air pistol, shotgun, archery) qualifying for nationals.
But a shooter only can go to nationals in a given discipline once, so Villa and Lee will have to be good outside of air pistol if they plan on returning to Nebraska.
“I want to go in .22,” Lee said. “That would be really fun. If I qualify again, I don’t think I would be able to pass it up.”
13 other members from the Moffat County team will be at state trying to qualify for Grand Island, as well. They also will look to continue a dominant run in .22 rifle shooting at the state shoot. Moffat County’s senior group has won all four disciplines in .22 for six years straight.
“It’s a pretty small club, so a lot of our county shooters make it to state,” said coach Jody Lee. “What happens then is the people we have going to state typically have a pretty good showing. Our competition to qualify is strong even though it’s small.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org