ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County's 4-H shooting teams are hoping to up their game by partnering with Volunteer High School's multi-national championship NJROTC air rifle team and its coach, Chief Norman Greear.
Hawkins County 4-H had a BB rifle team and an archery team last year thanks to a National Rife Association grant, but no funds to purchase pellet air rifles.
Program coordinator Lauren Hurd said that despite being rookies, Hawkins County's BB rifle team placed eighth out of 16 teams in state competition last year, as well as qualifying two archers for the state competition.
Shooting with the best
Last spring Hawkins County’s 4-H shooting program caught the attention of Greear, who suggested a partnership that would give the 4-H squad an opportunity to practice under Greear’s tutelage and alongside the more experienced VHS NJROTC air rifle team.
Hurd, Hawkins County's UT Extension Agent for 4-H, said she also sees this partnership as an opportunity to engage more young people in the 4-H program, and expose those youngsters to the leadership, work ethic, and dedication exhibited by Volunteer’s NJROTC shooters.
"Chief got in touch with me around the end of the school year last year and said he had some extra air rifles that he'd be willing to let us use, and kind of get our team up off the ground," Hurd said. "Now we have five competing in air rifle, we have four in BB (rifle), and there is some overlap between rifle and archery, and we have 11 for archery."
Hurd added, "These kids haven't been to competition yet, but they will be going to competition at the end of April, and that will be their first competition. We're waiting to hear back from NRA to get a grant for our shotgun team. But we will have a shotgun team this year as well, and it's going to be like the rifles last year where we didn't really know what we're doing, but we're going to learn."
Openly recruiting 4-H shooters
Hawkins County 4-H is openly recruiting more shooters in every program, and Hurd said they will take as many shooters as they can.
The age groups for air rifle are sixth through 12th grade, archery is fourth through 12th grade, and BB rifle is fourth grade through age 16.
The base fee is $40 per year and an extra $20 for air rifle, $15 for archery and $10 for BB. Those fees include use of rifles, bows, BBs, pellets and targets.
Shooters are encouraged to eventually acquire their own rife and/or bow so they can hone it to their personal shooting style.
The number of shooters they can take to the state competitions is limited, so if the numbers do swell beyond what is allowed to take to state there will be county shoot-offs to make the state teams.
"I'm really enjoying it”
Cherokee High School junior Laura Grace Jenkins said her goal is to take advantage of the expertise offered by Greear and the NJROTC air rifle team to make her a better shooter and more formidable competitor at 4-H competitions.
She's not in the NJROTC at Cherokee, so this is her only other option for competitive shooting.
"Obviously Chief knows his stuff,"Jenkins said. "I'm very, very, very impressed with them. They are really good shooters.
"I'm really enjoying it. I'm still in the beginning stages of it, and I'm doing both air rifle and archery. I really enjoy both of them, and I think it's fun to see how you can improve week by week. Each practice you get a little bit better and its easy to see your improvement."
Building future shooting champions
Greear said his primary motivation for partnering with 4-H was to help encourage more youngsters to participate and take up shooting, because it's a fun activity and a valuable skill.
But he's not afraid to admit he also wants to help begin training younger shooters to become the next generation of his multi-national championship-winning NJROTC air rifle team.
"Ideally these (4-H) guys will hopefully go on and join our program, whether it's at Cherokee or over here (at Volunteer) with us," Greear said. "If they're at Cherokee they're going to get some great kids and they're going to have a rifle program. But if they're (Volunteer) kids and they come up to me, I'm hoping I can get them right into my program, and they'll be shooting (competitively) in the first year."
For more information about joining one of the 4-H shooting teams contact Hurd by calling(423) 272-7241 or email her at [email protected]