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4-H SAFETY National Championship Report

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019 - 6:00am

John is back from Grand Island, NE to report on another successful 4-H Shooting Sports National Championship.


Announcer: This is 4H4U2, a podcast from the Mississippi State University Extension Service promoting 4H programs and positive youth development. Here now your host, Dr. John Long and Cobie Rutherford.

John Long: All right, and with that funky beat, I guess you all know what time it is. It is another episode of 4H4U2. I'm your host, John Long.

Cobie Rutherford: And I'm Cobie Rutherford.

John Long: Cobie, it's raining outside today, and at the time of this recording, it's the Wednesday before ... 4H. I've got 4H on my mind, but it's actually July 4th. It's coming up tomorrow. Hopefully, all this is going to clear out, but have y'all got any plans for the 4th of July weekend?

Cobie Rutherford: We don't have anything big planned. I think we're going home, spend some time with the family, and watch some fireworks. Maybe go out to the lake some, but I think a lot of my time will be a setting in the office writing this dissertation.

John Long: I remember those days. It is tough to do, and especially I know you've got a young family, too, so that's really hard to be away from them, too. But it all comes out in the wash in the end, and you'll be through it, and look back, and it'll be six years later, 10 years later, and you're like, "Well, I'm glad that is done. Done and done."

Cobie Rutherford: I think I'm through school after this.

John Long: Definitely. I remember walking out of that last class thinking "That is the last class I have to take for the rest of my life," and that felt good.

Cobie Rutherford: Yeah. I'm all about like continuing education, and continuing to learn things, but no more formal education.

John Long: I understand that for sure.

Cobie Rutherford: I need a piece of paper, and then we'll go on.

John Long: That's right. That's right.

Cobie Rutherford: So what have you been up to?

John Long: Well, I've been very busy myself. We just got back from ... I say "we" as when I say that my wife says, "Who's we? You and the mouse in your pocket?" I said, "Yeah, I guess so." But I just got back from nationals, National 4H Shooting Sports Championship in Grand Island, Nebraska. And they had that starting ... Basically, check-in was on June the 23rd, and it went through the 28th. And we ... Here I go with "we" again. See, that's the difference. When I go out there, I feel like I'm part of the team, so I say "we" all the time, but it's really the kids that do all the work, along with the volunteers and the parents. But, anyway, they let me tag along. How about that?

John Long: But anyway, we did really good. I think the young people had a really good time. National Committee does an excellent job on organizing different events just to keep them not occupied, but entertained and occupied, and really try to tell people that's part of the experience is being able to get out there and meet other youth across the country that they would otherwise never meet.

Cobie Rutherford: Yeah, that's part of the big deal. Networking.

John Long: You're right. Exactly. And it was a really good turnout, too. We had 661 participants from 36 states.

Cobie Rutherford: Wow.

John Long: So not a record on the number of states that came in, but but only shy by equaling the record by one state. It was only four that didn't show up this year, if I'm correct, out of the country that have shooting sports programs. It's very good. It's a very good place. Grand Island is an awesome place to have the event. They have great facilities there.

John Long: And, like I said, one night we had teen social for the kids. State coordinators actually got to get up and be together. And then we had another night where ... Oh, gosh, I'm drawing a ... Oh, where they went to the water park, which is right behind the event center. So it's really good. Really, really good time. And the food is not too bad either out there.

Cobie Rutherford: That does sound good.

John Long: Yeah. I'm always about the food.

Cobie Rutherford: Do most of our neighboring states have teams represented at Nationals?

John Long: Yes, they did. In fact, I'm good friends with the Arkansas coordinator, and he had a really good group there this year. Numbers wise, they had a really good group, and put up some awards this year. So he's kind of, I say, fairly new to the job. I think he started about maybe two years ago, but he did really well.

John Long: Louisiana came in number one overall in the sweepstakes. Alabama, I think they had the air team and a shotgun team, I think. I think there was just two of them. Alabama, don't get onto me for messing that up if anybody's listening, but I met the guy that was there helping out with their team. I'd made him a few years ago when he first started, but anyway, they brought one.

John Long: Tennessee, which is really cool. I actually saw a couple of young people that I worked with on the NWTF Convention that help out at the NWTF Convention that's in Nashville. Youth that are from Tennessee. And they saw me, and they came running up to me. I didn't even know they were going to be there. But anyway, that was really cool to see them, and their parents, and get to fellowship with them some, too.

John Long: But weather's fantastic out there right now.

Cobie Rutherford: I bet it is.

John Long: Oh, it was hard. It was just so hard to ... No humidity.

Cobie Rutherford: No humidity.

John Long: Oh, no, no, no, no, no.

Cobie Rutherford: I went to National Conference a few years ago in Kansas. Well, it was about third week of July, and I remember out there, everybody was sweating because it was about a hundred degrees, and all of us from the Southeast, we thought, "Oh my gosh, this is fantastic," because no humidity. They're like, "How are y'all doing this? How are you all not just dying out here?" Well, we're heat tolerant, I guess.

Cobie Rutherford: But I always thought those national contests and things like that were a lot of fun as a 4H-er because it gave me a chance to network and meet people from other states. Most importantly.

John Long: Absolutely.

Cobie Rutherford: I thought it was cool when you lose contact with folks when I was growing up because there wasn't social media or neat interactive ways to text or communicate. So we'd write letters, and then you'd all of a sudden wind up at college or a conference down the road, and see somebody you met three or four years ago, and you make that reconnection pretty fast.

Cobie Rutherford: I remember actually one of my first days here on faculty at Mississippi State, I met a person who I had grown up showing cattle with. Lady came by my office, and she's like, "Whoa, what are you doing here?" It was cool because we'd lost connection for almost 10 years. But it was neat.

John Long: Yeah. And that was funny you say that, because at the opening ceremony, there was a a man there, and I think he said this was the third year he's been representing Federal Ammunition, or as it's formerly known, ATK Federal Ammunition, named John Zinnel. And John was actually a 4H shootings sports participant. He was an ambassador, and now he's actually working in the outdoor industry, so to speak. And he was up there speaking to those young people. So to see somebody as successful as him to get up and represent 4H, and to say, "Hey, I was there, and see what I'm doing now," that was really, really cool.

John Long: And he's a very good representative, and we really appreciate shameless plug or support for a shooting sports across the country, because they're really awesome.

Cobie Rutherford: Yeah, that is pretty cool, to somebody full circle.

John Long: Absolutely.

Cobie Rutherford: What I think is good about your program, John, is that you just finished Nationals, and now in two weeks you're getting ready for the State Invitational. If I mispronounced this or misunderstand it, correct me, but it's almost like the people that win states shooting sports have a whole year to prepare for the national contest if they're eligible to go.

John Long: Right. And I always either laugh out loud or smile inside. I don't know, either one, but ... I don't know. Like you said, once we get back from Nationals, it's a short turnaround to where we're at State, and it just seems so far off to Nationals since. And here we are going to select another national team, so it's just like this never ending cycle. It's great. I'm not knocking that because I really think that a year out is a great idea because it gives them time to fund raise and to practice, because it is a different experience, for sure.

John Long: One of the things I tell young people that are on the national team, especially on archery, but all disciplines with the exception of air, because they're inside, is any day that you get to practice when the wind's blowing, you better be practicing, because the wind out there invariably is going to be blowing strong while we're out there. And experiencing shooting archery in that type of environment, I jokingly say that would be a great engineering project for Mississippi State is build this wind tunnel, and then we could do archery shooting, and see how it affects arrow flight at different wind speeds. But I don't know if that'll happen or not, but it would be good for our team.

Cobie Rutherford: Just a good physics lesson, right?

John Long: Yeah. Really good. STEM. STEM.

Cobie Rutherford: That's right.

John Long: You know, STEM.

Cobie Rutherford: Go ahead and get on that.

John Long: Yeah, for sure.

Cobie Rutherford: I think that when I went out there to Kansas, I didn't think about the wind, but I thought the first time I got out of my hotel room that it's about storm. Likewise, it hardly ever is windy here unless it is storming.

John Long: Consistently windy anyway, right?

Cobie Rutherford: I bet that does make a difference with arrows and stuff.

John Long: Yeah. And it does, and shotgun, too, is really ... Have you ever shot skeet?

Cobie Rutherford: I have not.

John Long: Okay. So let me just tell you how it's set up. There's what's called a high house and the low house, which is these towers. So one's obviously high, the other one's low, and I was watching one of our team members shoot skeet, and it was amazing. Of course, it's an equalizer because everybody has shoot in it. But they would throw a target out of one of those houses, and that sucker would be going straight, and then all of a sudden it'd just turn and go straight up. The wind is just crazy. But anyway, that that's neither here nor there. We had a really good time.

John Long: And I try to tell young people this when they get ready, and I try to emphasize this, and I can't emphasize it enough. You need to go. There's nothing wrong with being competitive, and I encourage you to be competitive. I encourage you to practice. I encourage you to make every shot count, but don't get so wrapped up in a competition that you miss the experience, because a lot of these young people that go to these events, and I'm not talking about specifically our kids, I'm talking about kids from across the country, is that when they embrace the experience, you can tell who is having the best time. Because they're going to that teen social, they're going to that water park, they're meeting other people.

John Long: One of the biggest things that we have out there, and I don't know if they have this in livestock or anything like that, but trading pins. State pins is a big deal, and everybody's out there swapping pins, and you want to get all 36 of them. So it's a competition within itself, but guess what? When you go to doing that, you're interacting with other people, and you're making connections with other young people. Shooting sports is something that's so different. I say "so different," but it can vary on to how they do their programs, and it's really cool that we all come together. 661 kids, and no accidents. That speaks volumes.

Cobie Rutherford: Somebody is doing something right.

John Long: Something is being done right. Those life skills are being taught. Those young people are being taught respect, and I really wish more people understood that side of it is the fact that ... When can you have that many people together? And you know what I'm saying? It's just an amazing thing. I wish everybody could go to Nationals and just see it.

Cobie Rutherford: So do the children take their own guns and their own bows and arrows there?

John Long: Yes, they do. Yeah.

Cobie Rutherford: I bet that's traveling nightmare. How do you travel with guns?

John Long: Not really. The first time I traveled with a firearm, I thought, "Oh, my gosh, this is going to be horrendous." Oh, no. You just walk up there. They open it up, look at it, put it back. And I've had no problems. With myself personally going on hunting trips, I've never had a problem carrying a firearm. It was almost just like checking any other bag, and you would think that, especially with today's security, but apparently they have it down to a science obviously. So it's really not that bad if you're flying. Obviously, traveling in a car ...

John Long: The one thing that I will say is the one thing you don't want to do, and if anybody's listening to this getting ready for Nationals, do not take white shoe polish and put 4H Shooting Sports Championship or Bust, or 22 Rifle Team On Board, because what that does is that says "We've got guns in here. Come break out our window."

Cobie Rutherford: It makes you a target.

John Long: Correct. Hey, that's a good pun there. Pardon the pun.

John Long: And I try to emphasize that. Don't do that, but that is the one thing that would be primarily is thefts. You need to make sure if you're stopping overnight that you're taking those firearms out of the vehicle, or any equipment, for that matter. Don't make yourself a target.

Cobie Rutherford: That's right. I just can't wrap my head around this. I'm looking forward to the State Invitational, because I've never been to a match such as this, where people are bringing firearms and not lost dogs.

John Long: Right, right, right, right.

Cobie Rutherford: I imagine it's kind of similar type situations where you have a massive check-in, a lot of different things going on at one time.

John Long: Yes, absolutely.

Cobie Rutherford: You're probably running around trying to multitask a million things, and there's a million questions at the same time.

John Long: I had a guy one time, he would joke with me, and he was just a ... I say "just." He was the guy that actually was over the range at the time where we were shooting, and he would get tickled because everybody would say, "Hey, John. Hey, John." So throughout the day he would say, "Hey, John," just to get me to turn around.

Cobie Rutherford: That's funny.

John Long: So, yeah, it's like a Pavlov-ic response to that. But, yeah, and usually I talk myself pretty hoarse. But it's a good time. It's a lot of work. I'm not going to lie to you, it is, but it's very rewarding, and it's always been my goal to make sure that we have the best event that we possibly can have because I want those young people to get just a taste of what ... And it is different. State is so much different than what they see on the district level, and I want them to have a a positive experience. I want them to enjoy themselves in preparation for going to that national event because it's really cool when I look out over the crowd, and go by those firing lines at State Invitational. I know that within that group there is going to be the next national team. And hopefully I'm going to get to know them better, and I'm going to get to know their families more, and get to share in that experience. In fact, I sent out a message to everyone when we got back, and I said, "I just want to thank you for allowing me a just for a small moment to be a part of a lifelong memory that you've made with your child." And that's a very important thing is if you don't take advantage of those moments, then they're gone, and you don't get them back.

Cobie Rutherford: That's very, very true. So the state contest is mirrored to prepare the kids, the youth, for the national contest. And so it's kind of a continuum. Districts are prepared for state, state prepares for nationals.

John Long: All part of that youth development component that we have. And a lot of people get wrapped up in the fact of State, saying, "Oh, well, it's for the national team." No, not. It's not. Primarily, it is an additional advancement competition for seniors. Just so happens that we use that as an instrument for selecting national team. Way more kids will come to State Invitational that will not go to Nationals than those that do, so we've got right now is a 176 that were signed up for shotgun. We've got, I think, 56 for 22 rifle. 56, 57 for 22 rifle. So there's a lot. And you're only picking four. So way more people are coming to compete for that very reason of being able to just experience a different type of environment. And hopefully get to go to Nationals. I encourage everybody, like I said. I think it's a great experience, and I wish everybody could go.

Cobie Rutherford: Now, can you go to Nationals more than one year?

John Long: Oh, you can, but you can't go in the same discipline twice.

Cobie Rutherford: Got you.

John Long: You can. In fact, in my tenure, I've had three individuals that have gone five times, four times. Four to five times. Very few that'll go that much, but they were diversified enough in their disciplines that they would go a repeated number of times. In fact, I had a Facebook memory come up of a couple of young men that nine years ago, we were at Nationals in Kerrville, Texas, and now one of them is a game board with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and the other one is serving in the Air Force. That was really cool to see that, how much change happens in nine years, and how fast it goes by for sure.

Cobie Rutherford: Without a doubt.

John Long: Yep.

John Long: I got to give a little shout out for my teams, too, if I could. All in all, when we finished up at Nationals, we had the number two 22 pistol team in the nation. Air pistol was number eight. Muzzleloader was number 11. Air rifle was number 14. No, yeah, that's right. And compound archery was number seven. Shotgun was number eight. I wrote air rifle down twice, and then we had recurve. I had one recurve shooter, and he did very well by himself. And he had a blast, too, so I got to be with him and his daddy some.

John Long: But what was really cool was air pistol came out number eight, and that was where the three person team. That was without a drop score each day, so they did really good. Oh, and I have to say that 22 pistol, this is the very first time that I can remember, and if anybody can remember any different, shoot me an email, but I do believe this is the first time that 22 pistol has ever being number one when shooting metal silhouettes. So I was really proud of them for that. I'm proud of all of the young people that participated, and they really represented the state of Mississippi well. Very proud of them, each and all, and thanks so much for those that served as coaches, and everybody that helped them get to that point, for sure.

Cobie Rutherford: Well, good deal. It sounds like y'all sure had a good time, and a lot of good things going on with safety in the state.

John Long: We did.

Cobie Rutherford: So, congratulations, John.

John Long: Thank you. It's not me, it's them. Yep.

John Long: All right. And I guess with that, we're going to wind up this edition of 4H4U2. If you want to have any information or more information on extension in your area and don't know where to go to, Cobie, where can they go?

Cobie Rutherford: They can go to the website,, or contact your local county office.

John Long: That's right. And if you don't know where your county office is located, or who to talk to, that's a really cool little thing because, aside says by county. If you pull down that little pull down menu, you can see your county, and it'll pull up all of those smiling extension faces that'll be more than happy to help you with any questions you have.

John Long: And with that, we're going to end up this edition of 4H4U2. I'm your host John.

Cobie Rutherford: And I'm Cobie.

John Long: And we'll talk to you next time.

Cobie Rutherford: Have a good one.

John Long: See you.

Announcer: Thanks for joining us for 4H4U2. For more information, please visit, and be sure to subscribe to our podcast. 4H4U2 is produced by the Mississippi State University Extension Service, Office of Agricultural Communications.


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