Cleveland County 4-H’er Competes in National Junior OlympicsFri, 28 May 2021 09:38:18 CDT
After spending several years participating in softball and karate, 14-year-old Elisa Boozer was burned out and ready to try something new. That something new was shooting sports. And, as it turns out, she’s good at it – really good.
Good enough, in fact, to qualify to compete in the AAU Junior Olympics Games not just once, but twice. She qualified to compete in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic shut down that opportunity. Having another year to refine her skills, she qualified this year and competed recently in Michigan.
To put into perspective just how good she is, consider that the 10-point ring inside the bullseye on the target she’s aiming for is half the width of a traditional pencil lead. She’s aiming from 10 meters away, under the deadline pressure of 60 shots in 90 minutes, always hoping to score a perfect 600.
Although she didn’t bring home the gold medal from the Junior Olympics event in early May, Boozer placed fifth in her 14-and-under age group in the 10-meter precision air rifle event and sixth place overall in the same age group.
It was her grandfather who introduced her to firearms, but it wasn’t until about three years ago that she learned shooting was an actual competitive sport. That’s when her interest grew.
“I was talking with my dad in the car one day and he started naming off different sports I could try. He named off shooting and I said I didn’t even know that was a sport,” Boozer said.
Now, three years later, the Moore Highland East Junior High School student is a Junior Olympic athlete and continues to refine her skills not only with her personal shooting coach, Charles Meloy, but also with the shooting sports program offered through the Oklahoma 4-H Youth Development program. She joined the Cleveland County 4-H Shooting Sports club about two years ago.
“I’m a very extroverted person, but shooting is a solitary sport, so being part of the shooting sports program in my county has really been a lot of fun,” she said. “It’s great that I can be social and do shooting, too.”
Ruth Allard, Cleveland County OSU Extension 4-H educator, said Boozer became involved in Cleveland County shooting sports during a transition phase when the organization was in the process of building up that program.
“She became a part of the club in that first wave of kids when we were rebuilding, and her involvement has grown from there,” Allard said. “Obviously, she’s very involved in the shooting sports program, but we’re also getting her involved in other aspects of 4-H.”
Shooting sports is based on experiential learning and goes with the 4-H motto of “learn by doing.” Allard said club members like Boozer serve as role models.
“Whether they realize it or not, these kids are learning life skills. Our goal isn’t necessarily to make champion shooters, but to make champion kids,” she said. “We want to build the whole youth, teach life skills, make this process a family affair and build that young person from the ground up.”
Meloy said he knew there was something special about Boozer when he first started working with her.
“I’ve seen lots of kids shoot, but I quickly recognized in her what we refer to as that ‘Olympic spark.’ I knew we just needed to fan that,” he said. “The kids with that kind of drive have several other things in common. They’re good in school, for example – she has a 4.0 grade point average – and they’re highly successful at other aspects of their lives.”
Despite the pandemic, Boozer continued to work hard and hone her shooting skills. Her lessons with Meloy continued in her grandfather’s workshop, which was converted into a range where they could still practice while following social-distance pandemic guidance. Her three lessons per week continued in that manner until the shooting range reopened.
Elisa’s father, Brandon Boozer, said he believes the sport fits her personality well because she’s a perfectionist.
“She has her process of doing things, and that trait works well with her shooting. She’s the kind of kid who, when she makes her bed, can’t allow any wrinkles,” her father said. “That focus and determination definitely helps with her success.”
Brandon Boozer appreciates the support his daughter gets from the Cleveland County group.
“If her success can help bring attention to and promote the Cleveland County Shooting Sports club and 4-H, that’s important to us,” he said. “This organization has done so much for Elisa. She has learned a lot, and it’s just a great overall program that provides so many opportunities for youth.”
Allard said the organization focuses on its three national mission mandates: supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education; civic engagement and healthy living. During club competitions, basic safety is emphasized alongside air rifle sight alignment and other skills.
As for the future, the young athlete plans to continue competing in shooting events, and she has her sights set not only on future Olympics opportunities but also earning a scholarship to one of the 26 colleges in the country that offer NCAA competitions in air rifle.
While thankful for her accomplishments, Elisa Boozer said she wants people to understand it takes hard work and dedication to get to the point where she is now.
“It doesn’t start with the Junior Olympics. You have to climb up,” she said. “It starts with picking up a rifle, shooting at the target and trying your best.”
To learn more about Boozer and 4-H shooting sports, watch her in action in this episode of SUNUP, OSU Extension’s television program.
Allard begins serving as the statewide coordinator for the 4-H Youth Development shooting sports program June 1. She can be reached at 580-332-4100 or via email.
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