Moffat County 4-H shooters who qualified for nationals already practicing
Craig — Eli Ellis, Cutter Polly and potentially Angela Hill will be upholding the long-standing tradition of Moffat County 4-H shooters who will represent the county and the state at the 4-H National Shooting Sports Invitational Competition in June 2017.
Ellis and Cutter Polly qualified for the competition at the state 4-H shoot. Hill is currently an alternate for two shooting sport classifications.
“When people think of 4-H a lot of people think of pigs and sheep and cows,” said Jody Lee, coach of the .22 rifle and muzzleloading classes and seven-time national coach. “Shooting sports is the largest part of 4-H in the state and in Moffat County.”
4-H shooters learn more than skill with a firearm or bow and arrow.
“It doesn’t just teach shooting. There’s a lot more in 4-H including, self-reliance, discipline, respect and community involvement,” said Alvin Luker, coach of the .22 pistol and air rifle disciplines who is also a Craig police officer. “Shooting is a way to get kids interested, and the real lessons are community involvement, discipline.”
This was the last year for Cutter Polly to qualify for nationals in archery, and nine years of work paid off.
“Two years ago I took 10th,” he said, noting that 2015 was not his year but motivated him to do better. “I didn’t stop shooting. I shot every day, at home and in-doors, three times a week. Then, when the weather was nice enough, everyday at the Wyman Museum archery range,” he said
Cutter estimates that he shot an average of 400 arrows a day and not all in practice.
“Big tournaments got my mind ready so that shooting with a bunch of people didn’t really bother me,” he said.
Ellis said his win at the state competition was “really exciting.”
“When I was first down there at state shooting I just wanted to qualify. After I qualified I got this hunger to do well at nationals,” he said.
Qualifying from his combined scores in the classes for hunt and four-position — standing, kneeling, sitting and laying in the prone position — Ellis was hunting long before 4-H shooting competitions.
“I was 6 when I started shooting chalk targets with a .22 cricket,” he said.
When he’s not shooting at targets, Ellis enjoys hunting “deer, antelope, coyotes, ducks and badgers.”
Ellis joined the local air rifle league to practice during the winter in preparation for nationals.
Also participating in the league is Hill, currently fourth alternate for the .22 rifle completion and first alternate for air rifle.
“Don’t know if I’ve made the team,” she said.
Like Ellis, Hill has been shooting most of her life.
“I always shot with my dad, for as long as I remember,” she said.
She started shooting in 4-H three years ago, but this year was her first year in air rifle and her achievement as one of the best young shooters in the state has her excited to see how far she could go.
“I’m taking it one step at a time and focusing in the little things. That’s how to improve,” she said.
Parents and coaches are as excited as the shooters.
“I’m excited. We put a lot of time and effort into that kid,” said Shawn Polly, Cutter Polly’s father.
Mother Sarah Polly leads the Sliver Slingers 4-H Archery Club and is also excited about her son’s achievement.
“Cutter has been doing this for nine years, he’s one of the original members of the club,” she said. “It’s cool that he’s made it to nationals.”
All the shooters have put in a great deal of effort to get where they are.
“Eli has been working really hard for a lot of years. He’s been an alternate for three years,” Lee said. “Angela has also been working hard, this is her first year in air rifle. Practicing all winter has really made a difference.”
The National Championships will be held June 25 to 30, 2017 in Grand Island, Nebraska at the Heartland Public Shooting Park, according to the National 4-H Shooting Sports website.
4-H youth from across the country will compete in compound archery, recurve archery, air rifle, air pistol, .22 rifle, .22 pistol, shotgun, muzzleloading and hunting skills, according to the Nebraska state 4-H website.
The community can get behind our 4-H nationals team by helping to sponsor the trip.
“The kids give 110 percent,” said Shawn Polly. “We hope the community will give them a little back. Sponsorships are helpful. As the competition nears they will be visiting community members to raise funds.”
Each Moffat County shooter will need about $2,500 for the week and area individuals, and businesses are encouraged to sponsor the team.
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On a summer morning in southern Idaho, the day breaks early, before 6 a.m. The air is stale, never fully cooled from the heat of the day before.