Flathead County 4-H hosts shooting invitational

January 29, 2018 GMT

Amateur shooters put their skills on display Saturday when Flathead County 4-H Shooting Sports hosted its Invitational Tournament at the County Fairgrounds. The Invitational, which attracted 150 competitors from across the state, offered a chance for shooters aged 9-19 to practice their form in numerous events.

Starting at 8 a.m., 4-H volunteers hosted 270 competitions over the course of the day for various ages and shooting sports, said Kristi Davis, the Flathead County 4-H Student Sports Coordinator and the match coordinator for the tournament.

Competitors chose from air rifle, air pistol, and archery events, though many competed in multiple disciplines. The air rifle competitions were broken down by position - prone, standing, kneeling and the multi-position, “3P.” There were six different divisions in archery: barebow, primitive, limited, unlimited, bowhunter and Olympic recurve. All participants were sorted into four age groups: 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, and 15 years and up.

With numerous competitive shooting opportunities and a warm, familiar environment, the Invitational aimed to offer local shooters a chance to learn “competition in a safe environment,” Davis said.

The spirit of healthy competition was echoed by Pat McVay, who founded Flathead County 4-H Shooting Sports in 1984. McVay helped establish the Flathead 4-H Invitational once he realized that the club would falter without strong competition from across the state.

“No sport is any good without competition,” McVay said. “You have to have that competition to improve your program every minute. I’ve been very, very proud of all the kids that have gone through the program for 30 or more years.”

It’s the strength of the Flathead 4-H Shooting Sports community that keeps current and past competitors coming to the Invitational, such as Alana Aasheim, 24, an instructor for air pistol. “I grew up in this program so now I’m just giving back to the kids,” she said.

Melina Baracker, 14, appreciated the long-standing efforts of the club. “The volunteers are amazing. They dedicate hours and hours a week to helping these kids shoot and grow in shooting,” she said.

Baracker, a rifle competitor, was excited to put months of mental training to the test at the Invitational.

“My goal was to not necessarily get good scores,” she explained, “but to handle my mental management well and just be completely at ease and shoot my best score.” The training appears to be working, as she finished the day with a personal best score.

Tristan Smith, 18, was also looking to place well and get his team, the Halfmoon Highlanders, on the podium. He credits the Invitational with helping younger shooters develop competitive experience.

“After these first initial competitions of the year, they start feeling more comfortable with it, so it helps them a lot coming in to something local and small,” he said.

Braden Olsen, 16, an archer in bowhunter and unlimited classes, also enjoyed the local competition, especially after traveling far for high-level tournaments, such as the World Archery show in Las Vegas. Regardless of the result, his favorite part of the day was clear: “Just being able to come out here and not be very far from home for a competition.”

Reporter Adrian Horton can be reached at ahorton@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4439.