South Routt 4-H shooters have big weekend at state | SteamboatToday.com

South Routt 4-H shooters have big weekend at state

Austin Colbert

— Taylor Kirby received her first gun on her sixth birthday, a present from her father, Rick. It was a little Daisy BB gun, which had been spray painted pink and white. As adorable as it might have been, hindsight says maybe it wasn't the best of ideas.

"I was probably not paying attention," Taylor Kirby said. "I shot a rock, bullet came back and missed me by that much, and left a little dent in my cousin's Ford."

Now 14, the Soroco High School freshman is much more adept when it comes to handling, and shooting, guns. Last weekend at the Colorado 4-H State Shooting Sports Championships in Pueblo, she led the South Routt 4-H Shooting Club with 10 ribbons and three state championships, part of a combined 30 ribbons and four state championships won by the club.

Taylor's brother, 11-year-old Jed, won seven ribbons and was part of the state championship air pistol team that included Taylor, Chase de la Mater and Spencer Ashley.

"I couldn't have been more proud. I was crying the entire time," said Jennifer Kirby, the mother of Taylor and Jed. "Jed sees Taylor as the best shooter. Of course he wanted to ribbon, but he was more interested in beating his sister. And he was able to beat her in a couple of events. I don't know that a brother-sister have ever tied for a grand championship, but as a mom that was a heart attack."

Taylor and Jed tied for first in the air pistol, with Taylor taking the grand championship after three tiebreakers. Taylor also took first in the .22 scope and won first place for her air rifle stand-alone exhibit, giving the South Routt club five first-place ribbons. The air rifle team of Taylor, Jed, de la Mater and Hailey Minnick took second.

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"It kind of sucked. She's always been better than I have," Jed said about losing to his sister. "But it was really cool to watch her. She's very good."

The South Routt 4-H Shooting Club, coached by Rick Kirby and John Halder, is on an upward swing. Just four years ago, when Rick Kirby took over, the only four kids participating were Taylor, Jed, de la Mater and Yampa's Kendra Halder, the daughter of John Halder.

This year, they were able to send 10 kids to state, including two (Kai Lancaster and Jonathan Lockhart) from Steamboat Springs. The club operates mostly from the Kirby's ranch, located a few miles south of Toponas, and receive coaching help from local competitive shooters Dan Miller and Mike Lewis.

"You hope for it, because there is a lot of effort involved in it, and it's fun to have a few more kids," Rick Kirby said about the club's recent growth and success. "Jed is coming into his own, but Taylor is really starting to figure it out. We are hoping she sticks with it, because you can definitely get scholarships through this kind of stuff. And Kendra looks like she's going to go the whole way, too."

Outside of the Kirby kids, Kendra Halder has proven she is easily one of the best shots in the state. The only South Routt 4-H shooter competing in the senior age division (everyone else was competing as a junior), Halder took first in air rifle utility and was the lone South Routt kid to qualify for next summer's national competition in Nebraska, making it in both air rifle and .22.

"My first year as a senior I went out there not knowing what to expect, and to have qualified for nationals in two events this year is pretty exciting for me," said Halder, a junior at Soroco High School. "I'm not really nervous right now, but I know I need to practice a lot. I'm sure as the competition itself gets closer, I'll get a little nervous."

The Kirbys hope the success of this year's group will get more kids interested in the shooting club and 4-H in general. When Rick Kirby took over the club, it was mostly because nobody else had stepped up and his kids wanted to continue with the sport. Only a few years later, it's blossomed into a successful team that will have its first national competitor come next June.

"The whole thing is, they should be having fun. The minute it becomes a job for them, they are not going to want to do it," Rick Kirby said. "I would like to see it continue, for sure. I would like to see all these kids work their way up through the ranks and get all the way through. It's a lifelong sport."

For more information about 4-H and to get involved with the shooting club, Rick Kirby said to go through the Routt County Extension Office.