Air rifle team scores big at Nationals in Nebraska

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The Montana State 4-H Air Rifle Team placed third at Nationals held in Grand Island, Neb., on June 24-29. Two Mineral County members won a spot on the state team, Bailey Milender and Howie Edison. From left to right: Coach Richard Milender, Lyndy Powers, Bailey Milender, Margo Spaulding and Howie Edison. (Photo courtesy of Mineral County 4-H Shooting Sports)

The members of the Montana State 4-H Air Rifle Team ended their season on a high note in Grand Island, Neb., for Nationals where the team placed third. Mineral County 4-H Shooting Sports team members included Howie Edison and Bailey Milender. The other state team members were Lyndy Powers from Gallatin Valley Sharpshooters, and Margo Spaulding from Kalispell Shooting Sports. The team headed to Nebraska for the five-day tournament held June 24-29.

The 15- and 16-year-old team members qualified during the Montana State Tournament in March held in Bozeman. Where Bailey and Howie qualified for the state team and Bailey’s father, Richard Milender, was asked to be the coach for the air rifle Sporter group.

Overall, 14 Montana 4-H shooters qualified for Nationals. At Nationals, there were 600 members made up 24 teams from across the country who competed in nine disciplines, which included small bore pistol and small bore rifle; hunting skills; muzzleloading; air pistol and air rifle; shotgun; and compound and recurve archery.

The state team is pulled together from the competition in Bozeman, and Richard was impressed with the team chemistry. “They came together like a team who had competed for years. They had to put aside differences of training and programs to act and perform like a team and they were a fun group to be around,” he said.

There were 100 competitors in the Sporter competition, which was scored in three positions: prone, kneeling and silhouette. This is Bailey Milender’s fifth year in the sport, and she ended up in 10th place overall while Edison, in his seventh year, ended up in eighth place.

The team finished in first place in 3P and standing. “They did an awesome job,” said Richard Milender.

In addition to the competition, the kids also went to the Oasis Water Park and enjoyed some of the other attractions Grand Island has to offer.

“WE FUND RAISE all year for these events and trips,” said Richard. “It is quiet an adventure. We get to go to a lot of different places and see so many things. That’s what this is all about.”

The 4-H shooting team is open to ages 9- to 18-year-olds, and Richard will continue to be one of the coaches. During this past year, the Mineral County 4-H Sporter team took first place in all tournaments they shot at, including NRA Standing, NRA 3P and the Junior Olympic. That qualified them to compete at the NRA Nationals in Bloomington, Ind., and the CMP/Junior Olympic Nationals in Camp Perry, Ohio. The teams shoots 10 months out of the year, and includes Becker Milender, Heath Edison and Jonna Rae Warnken. Warnken shoots for the Hellgate Precision Team, which also qualified for first place for all the tournaments.

However, due to summer schedules the 4-H Sporter team just chose to attend the competition in Nebraska. Richard said across the state, many of the shooting groups have 100 kids and only about four coaches. The Mineral County team is lucky because there are just a few kids and they get a lot of one-on-one coaching, “so they do pretty well,” he said.

Mineral County 4-H shooting is always looking for new members and people can visit the Montana State University Extension office website at: Montana4h.org/programs/events/shooting, or call Richard Milender at (406) 214-7055 for more information.

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