For the second year in a row, the Morgan County 4-H archery team has won the State’s Compound Bow Championship. Under the direction of Head Coach Danny Pincus and assistant Andy Vaughters, the team outdistanced their nearest competition (Lowndes County) by a mere 21 points out of a combined team score of around 2400 points. Pincus called the margin of victory very, very close. Last year’s margin was even thinner when they won both the Compound and Recurve State Championships. This year they did not field a recurve team.
Members of this year’s team include freshmen phenoms Matthew Russell and Timothy Smith along with juniors Jake Furgerson and Will Woodard. Pincus said, “These young men earned the right to compete at the Nationals in Grand Island, Nebraska with their State Championship victory. It will be a memorable experience for them and their parents. We have at least six other parents that will be traveling out with us. The shooters can only attend Nationals once because of 4-H rules, so this will be their only shot at winning it all.”
The coach and the shooters will be fundraising in advance of the Nationals to foot the bill for their trip. The money raised will pay for the four team members and the coach, but will not help out with others wishing to attend. The fundraiser that is going on now is a raffle of two Yeti Coolers donated by Crowe’s Marine. You can purchase tickets for $5 from team members, their parents, the coaches, and at the 4-H office from Janet Woodard.
The shooting event is made up of three separate target shoots; FITA, Field, and 3-D. If you look up FITA, you will find this explanation of the event. The FITA round, in the sport of archery, is a form of target shooting competition used in international and world championship events, authorized by the Fédération Internationale de Tir à l’Arc (FITA), the world governing body of the sport. The round consists of 144 arrows, 36 at each of four distances; 60, 50, 40, and 30 meters which equates to 66, 55, 44, and 33 yards. Field shooting involves shooting targets at a known distance while the 3-D competition has players shooting at animal targets from unknown distances in which the shooters have to gauge the distance. The only instrument they can carry onto the course is a pair of binoculars. During the events, communication between players, coaches, and fans is strictly prohibited. Should a player/players get caught, it can bring about a disqualification of the individual or entire team. (Thank you Elaine Smith for your insight on these details)
To tell you how good these youngsters are, Russell shot a score of 711 out of a possible 720 on the FITA course at State. His closest competitor came in at 701 and Smith was next with a 699. These guys are the real deal. When it comes to the State and National level, the leadership and experience of the coaches have really put these guys on the State and National map. Pincus commented on the boys, “A score of 711 is phenomenal. Tim and Matthew are ranked in the top 10 in the United States based on their tournament results from all parts of the country. They usually shoot within a point or two of each other.”
At their weekly practice this week, the team members were preparing for the 3-D course they will contend with in Nebraska. According to Pincus, this course will be quite different from the one seen at the State level. He said, “We will be shooting over grasslands like prairies. Here we were shooting in the woods where it’s darker with a lot more trees. Out there it will be a wide open venue.” In preparation for that change in shooting, Pincus was working with the guys on judging distances over mowed grass. He has set up a complete course on his property with mowed paths and 3-D animals they might see in Grand Island. The shooters were estimating the distances using their binoculars while Pincus used a rangefinder to get the exact distance for them. It was highly comparable to the course they will be shooting at Nationals. The 3-D targets included life-size caribou, wild pigs, cheetahs, a cobra, African black buck and several others. “Last year there was a big tree frog in a tree and a 10-foot velociraptor that they shot. It can be deceiving to them. They tend to underestimate the distances of larger animals, so that’s why we’re practicing. There’s no walking it off. The course will be basically what you see here. It’s a hay field that has not been bush hogged with paths mowed for shooting lanes,” he commented.
In talking with the team, a couple of questions came up. Do you plan on continuing the sport after this? The resounding answer was, “Yes.” Furgerson responded first saying, “I’ll still be shooting on Coach Pincus’ JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) team and traveling to tournaments around the country to keep my National ranking. Our next one is in Raleigh at the Outdoor Nationals.” Russell commented, “My motivation is I’m hoping to get better in the sport and find some way to stay with archery whether it is shooting as a pro or finding a career as an engineer in the sport.” He added, “I’m a bow hunter. It makes me a better hunter and helps me get over the nerves of when a big buck walks out. I now have the confidence to make that shot without being nervous at all.”
Pincus added, “Most of this year’s team will continue to shoot compound after the 4-H Nationals. It makes them a better sport shooter (for deer) and more accurate. They will stay with compound to get their National rankings by participating in compound events all over the U.S.”
One thing to keep in mind is the volunteer nature of working with these young men and 4-H. Neither Pincus nor Vaughters are paid one dime. They agreed, “We do it because we love the sport and have a passion for it. When you’ve been involved in this as long as we have, it’s mostly about helping the kids. We mainly do it for them.” Pincus told us that there are several careers in the field, but that he would have to quit his job to do that. “Even private lessons are not my job, it’s a hobby.”
We would like to wish the team and coaches the best of luck in Grand Island. Give it your best shot!