At the recent National 4H Shooting Sports Championships held in Grand Island, Nebraska, Sporter Air Rifle competitor Matigan Fitzgerald placed third individually overall.
Plus, in team competition, Fitzgerald, 19, McKenzie Fitzgerald, 16, Logan Boehm, 17, and Elijah Spencer, 16, who represented Idaho, placed fourth overall in the air rifle event. All are from the Nampa area.
Boehm and Spencer have already qualified to compete in the shotgun and the .22 rifle events at nationals next year respectively, she said
Matigan’s next goal is to try out for the Junior Olympics team in the Precision air rifle category and then maybe even try out for the Olympic team.
“I know that’s a goal that’s still far away for me but the Olympics is the highest goal for any athlete. It doesn’t get any better than that,” she said.
Matigan graduated early from high school and will begin her junior year this fall at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa. She wants to be a middle school math teacher and eventually lead a 4H club.
“I really enjoy working with children. I love helping kids grow and be successful. It’s amazing,” she said.
Fitzgerald was among 15 4H members from Idaho who competed at the nationals in late June, which was the largest contingency from Idaho to ever compete at nationals, she said. The experience was unique since competitors can only attend once in each discipline.
“Nationals are one and done which makes the competition extra special,” she said.
Fitzgerald’s parents are John and Melanie Fitzgerald of Nampa who lead the Ada County Homesteaders 4H Club she belongs to. Fitzgerald has also raised lambs in 4H for the last eight years. She became interested in shooting sports four years ago.
“We’re ranchers and I initially joined 4H to raise lambs, but since my dad was in the military, shooting sports has been part of all our lives, so I decided to try it for myself and found I was very interested in it,” she said.
Overall, competing at nationals was an experience she’ll never forget.
“It was just amazing. There are several kids at nationals who either are, or aspire to be Junior Olympians. And to be on the line with kids from over 30 states was an incredible experience,” she said.
The team shoots both Sporter and Precision air rifles, which are somewhat similar to a BB gun, she said. However, competition air rifles are equipped with cylinders of compressed air instead of a break-barrel action like a BB gun. Interest in 4H shooting sports continues to grow statewide and nationally.
“The popularity of the air rifle has been picking up a lot of momentum lately,” she said. “Overall it’s very safe, and quiet. The Sporter rifles are less expensive and generically made, but Precision air rifles are designed for Olympic shooting. Precision rifles are incredible because they are adjustable in nearly every way, most notably in the butt stock, cheek weld and trigger areas. Those adjustments allow you to essentially customize the rifle to fit you. I love shooting with it.”
There are three air rifle events at nationals: three-position, all-standing and silhouette. Three-position requires competitors to shoot in three positions; prone, standing and kneeling aiming at a paper bullseye from a 10-meter distance. All-standing is a 40-shot sequence in the standing position, while aiming at a paper target from a 10-meter distance. During the silhouette event, steel targets are placed at distances of 20, 30, 36 and 45 yards, requiring the shooter to adjust their sights for the different distances, as they shoot unsupported in the standing position, she said.
“It’s a highly competitive environment. There is much more to it that meets the eye,” she said.