Moffat County 4-H shooters aim for national glory after strong state showings
It’s a pursuit that takes hour upon hour of practice, but for those who love it, the effort hardly feels like work.
It’s been a busy summer on the gun range for Moffat County kids, whose skills with firearms have gotten them some big honors.
The 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships had some Northwest Colorado faces in the mix in late June at Grand Island, Nebraska.
Forrest Siminoe placed 24th individually on the Colorado small-bore rifle group, which took third in total team standings behind Louisiana and Pennsylvania. Also at the national event was Brook Wheeler, part of the Colorado compound archery team, placing 67th individually and 12th as a group.
But, that was just the kickoff to another cycle.
With the way 4-H’s schedule functions, shooters compete for next year’s national event at the state level later in the summer, so local competitors were back at it again in state events at Pueblo and Colorado Springs.
Placing 10th overall in the air rifle event in August, Siminoe had a high point in the 4-P round, winning it by a fraction of a point at a score of 179.3. The name refers to the four positions shooters must complete: prone, standing, sitting, and kneeling.
“I was really surprised; there are a lot of good shooters from other counties, a lot of well-known shooters,” he said. “It was really cool to get first place in that. For 4-P, that’s the thing I’ve shot the most, so it was a pretty comfortable discipline.”
Besides being state champion in 4-P air rifle, he also earned fifth in the state in both the 4-P and hunting rounds of .22 rifle, fourth overall.
The Moffat County rifle team was small but mighty at state, and Siminoe commended his teammate, Travis LeFevre, for a good performance as well.
“He’s pretty good, just a little younger than me with a little less experience,” Siminoe said. “After COVID hit, our numbers dropped. We used to have a pretty big team, but we’ve lost a bunch of people and a lot of them aged out. Our group scores definitely suffer at state because if you don’t have four people in a team, you’re not going to place in the top three at all. Other than that, the individual stuff, you’re already by yourself and not depending on anyone.”
Moffat County archers also had just two at state this year. Blake Duncan took 10th in senior compound unlimited, while Wheeler switched it up by competing in the senior recurve category.
Wheeler said she chose the new discipline because she would have been unable to qualify for nationals again in the compound.
She got some help from her older sister Kimber — who attained All-American status in the sport shooting for University of the Cumberlands — to master the new bow.
“She helped me get the ropes of it all and learn how to do it,” Wheeler said of her sibling. “It was very new to me. It was a huge change. With recurve, your arrow is traveling a little bit slower, so you really have to pay attention to where the wind’s going and how fast and how much you need to compensate for it.”
A wintertime basketball injury to her elbow also had affected her performance at nationals, though she was feeling more back to normal by the time the state event started.
“It was pretty challenging getting back into the competitive style, not just shooting for fun and messing around,” she said.
The gambit worked as Wheeler placed second in the state, guaranteeing another trip to Grand Island. Though she was expecting to finish lower in the field of athletes, she was thrilled to see her name much higher.
“It was crazy feelings, I never would have imagined I’d get second,” she said. “Depending on what the kid in first does, if he qualifies in multiple disciplines, I could possibly be the No. 1 on the team going into nationals. Then the coaches for the national recurve team would be from Moffat County.”
Elsewhere, the Moffat County shotgun team’s performance during Labor Day weekend was right on target with national qualifiers — the group of Stone Balleck, Tate Kerchal, Will McStay, Wyatt Dade and Cody Dade placed second in sporting clays and third in both skeet and trap categories. Balleck also earned second among all individuals, with Kerchal fifth and McStay tying for sixth.
The junior shotgun team of Zachary Winters, Connor Nagel, Hunter Boss, Elim Browning and Malykai Hampton placed the highest in sporting clays in fourth.
Quintyn Louthan, Austin Jazwick, Owen Jazwick, Kolby Smith were the junior .22 rifle team, placing the best in 4-P at fifth.
During the .22 pistol competition, Siminoe earned another national qualification with fifth place overall for seniors, while Zayne St. Martin placed 11th among for Moffat County juniors.
Shooters will have plenty of time to hone their skills for the next national event, which won’t be until June 2023.
“For a while I really wanted to get to the national level, that was my drive. Now that I went, I want to go back,” Siminoe said.
As part of his senior year at Moffat County High School, Siminoe plans to compete in swimming, hockey, track and robotics. The latter has heavily influenced what he wants to do after graduating.
“I’m thinking of engineering or software development, something along those lines. I’m pretty good at math and coding is something that interests me. I haven’t really looked at a whole bunch of schools, but I know what I want to go for, so that should narrow it down,” he said.
Siminoe noted that he’s been shooting competitively for the past decade but first handled a rifle with supervision as a toddler. Ever since, he’s been serious about shooting sports, including the three-gun event, which involves pistol, shotgun, and rifle as part of the course of fire.
“We do three-gun, we go big game hunting, we do small game, all sorts of stuff, me and my dad. It’s always been a part of my life,” he said.
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