‘God gave her a second chance’ — Soroco grad earns 4-H national championship following rollover
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Earning 1,754 points of the available 1,800, Soroco High School graduate Taylor Kirby and the Civilian Marksmanship Program team from Colorado secured a victory at the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Nebraska in late June.
Just 10 months earlier, on Labor Day, Kirby rolled her truck five times. Suffering serious injuries, Kirby and her family weren’t sure if she would be able to compete at nationals, which she qualified for just two weeks prior to the accident.
“I tell everybody, ‘God gave her a second chance,” Taylor’s father, Rick Kirby, said. “She had everything going against her as far as her head injury. Her balance was affected, and the brain injury affected a lot of different things. We were wondering if she was even going to be able to make it there. … Her performance was as good as she’s ever shot.”
The team members, Kirby and Craig competitors Angela Hill, Joey Gates and Gabrelle Ellis, exhibited their skills in slow-fire and rapid-fire shooting in the Small Bore Rifle event. The girls defeated second-place finisher Kansas by 17 points. The margin of victory was the largest among the top-six teams.
“It was fantastic. I don’t really know the words to describe it,” Taylor Kirby said. “Not only the competition part, doing so well as a team, but the experience in and of itself, meeting new people. I love it.”
Ahead of nationals, Taylor Kirby endured a slow recovery. The blow to her head combined with whiplash prevented the left side of her brain from receiving the oxygen it needed, slowing the healing process. She also suffered ligament damage in the fingers of her left hand and was sound sensitive for months.
“From September to March, I wasn’t practicing,” Taylor Kirby said. “That, for me, was the longest time I’d gone without practicing. It was kind of hard to get back into it. Finding my new position, trying to be comfortable with injuries I’m still sore with. … My hips really bother me now, so some of the sitting and kneeling positions in shooting are crazy painful.”
Still suffering from vertigo, Kirby took it slow, but in March, she started practicing air rifle, in which she took 19th at the 2018 National Championships. It wasn’t until June that Kirby started shooting her .22 rifle to prepare for nationals. Despite limited practice, she finished 23rd of 82 competitors in the Small Bore Rifle Overall Standings. She placed 18th in the 3-position event and 36th in the Small Bore Rifle Silhouette standings.
Taylor’s accident also set her back academically, forcing her to miss the first semester of her senior year at Soroco. Come spring, she took the classes she needed and graduated with her class.
“It was crazy. I honestly don’t know how I did it,” Taylor Kirby said with a laugh.
She plans to spend a year at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs to catch up on college credits she had to drop during her shortened senior year. After a year, she hopes to transfer to the Glenwood campus of CMC for the veterinary technology program. All the while, she hopes to continue shooting.
Rick Kirby is the South Routt shooting coach and coached Spencer Ashley in the .22 pistol event.
Ashley, who just finished his sophomore year at Soroco, took first at the state championships and finished ninth in the Small Bore Pistol Camp Perry Event at nationals.
“That’s definitely my strong suit,” Ashley said. “It’s what I practice most during the summer, I think. It’s definitely the most fun for me.”
He also placed 25th in Small Bore Pistol Slow Fire and 32nd in the Small Bore Pistol Silhouette event, good for 25th overall among 61 shooters.
Ashley said he’s been competing in shooting sports for eight years, but has worked just three years with a pistol. He said he hopes he can get back next year and compete in air pistol or perhaps archery.
“It was his first time winning anything at state, let alone getting first place,” Rick Kirby said. “I think it was a great experience for him to go to nationals and do as well as he did there.”
Find full results from the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championship at unl.app.box.com/s/0pc1tomo71928cml3s6he02o2e2vlxt7.