Logan Bankard takes aim Monday evening at the Routt County Rifle Club while practicing for this weekend’s state shooting championships.

Photo by John F. Russell

Logan Bankard takes aim Monday evening at the Routt County Rifle Club while practicing for this weekend’s state shooting championships.

State championships offer Routt County shooters a place to shine

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— After playing football, ice hockey and lacrosse last year as a freshman in high school, Logan Bankard knows a thing or two about what it takes to be an athlete.

“It takes quick reflexes and good hand-eye coordination,” Bankard said.

But the Steamboat Springs High School sophomore wasn’t talking about catching a football or shooting a puck or lacrosse ball into the back of a net. He was talking about what it takes to be successful when it comes to knocking clay targets out of the air.

“Shooting is all about mental focus,” he added.

This weekend, Bankard and his teammates on the 4-H Routt County state championship shooting team will be focused on good scores and a top finish at the Pikes Peak Gun Club in Colorado Springs.

The senior team, which is made up of members of the 4-H shooting programs, includes Bankard, Grant Birkinbine, Hunter Mihaich, Will Valora and Johnathon Ely. The shooters will compete in trap, skeet and sporting clay competitions during the weekend. Richard Hallenbeck and Kollen Decker will compete in the same events as individuals in the junior division.

“It’s a great way to relax,” Mihaich said about shooting. “There is just something about being able to hit a moving target in midair.”

The story of how these young men arrived on the shooting team varies, but team members are united by their interest in the sport of shooting.

Bankard got his start when he joined the 4-H club to learn archery when he was just 8 years old. While hanging out at the range, he was drawn into shooting .22-caliber rifles and, eventually, into shooting shotguns.

“It was something different and really fun,” Bankard said. “I was kind of bored with .22s, and shotguns are a lot more fun.”

Last year, Bankard qualified for the national shotgun championships, and this year, he made the cut for archery nationals based on second- and third-place finishes at the state competition a couple of weeks ago.

Mihaich also is an accomplished shooter and was named to the national team as an alternate 2012. This year, he is hoping to reach his goal of shooting at the national championships.

“I’ve been pretty inspired this season.” Mihaich said. “I was close last year, and I think that’s been motivation for this season. I would love to qualify for nationals.”

This will be Birkinbine’s first trip to state, and he can’t help but get a little excited.

He also started shooting rifles before moving to shotguns.

“It’s a lot more involved,” Birkinbine said. “You have to track the target and move your body. You have to hit a moving target. I just want to do well as a team and have some fun.”

The state championships are part of the state fair. The competition will begin with skeet Saturday. The events will continue with sporting clays Sunday and conclude with trap Monday.

To reach John Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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