Marengo County youths participate in BB championship

Marengo County now is home to the 50th and 52nd best young BB gun shooters in the United States.

Lizzie Cannon, who turns 11 next week, daughter of Jason and Tiffany Cannon, and Will Yates, 14, the son of Beth and Paul Yates, competed this weekend at the Daisy National BB Championship in Rogers, Ark., against young men and women from across the country. After a written exam and four rounds of shooting, the two came home with records to be proud of, especially since they only began shooting in December. They have every intention of competing again next year and improving their standing.

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Lizzie Cannon (left) and Will Yates in Rogers, Ark., at the Daisy National BB Gun Championship Match. (Contributed Photo)

Open to young shooters between the ages of 9 and 15, competitors have to place in their state competitions before qualifying for nationals, but the events require teams of five. Marengo County had only three to enter the Alabama 4-H rifle competition. Even two down, essentially getting scores of zero, the three placed third in the state. One of the three from the county couldn’t travel to Arkansas for the championship event. Lizzie and Will decided to compete for the experience, fully expecting to lose. However, event officials said they couldn’t compete unless the team had five members and bumped them up to the championship division, which allowed them to compete as individuals. They were shooting against those who had won the event or shot in the event last year.

“Our kids were basically shooting against the best shooters here,” said Cannon. There were 509 in the championship division.

Entrants took a written exam, which was 95 percent on gun safety. They shot 10 rounds in four different positions: standing, kneeling, sitting and prone. All competitors brought BB guns of their own to shoot. Part of the reward for competing, however, was the chance to build their own customized BB gun to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the competition. The stock is engraved with the 50th anniversary logo and the competitor’s name.

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Will Yates and Lizzie Cannon. (Contributed photo)

Lizzie and Will also had fun at the Barter Bar where they swapped Alabama 4-H pins for items from other states, such as butter and cheese from Wisconsin. Getting the team started was a matter of timing, said Cannon. He was looking for outlets for Lizzie to become involved, since there isn’t a lot for girls in the county. “There are a lot of rifle scholarships out there,” Cannon said. Most major universities that field football teams also have shooting teams. “Marengo County didn’t have a rifle team.”

He approached Kathryn Friday, director of the county Extension office which had just moved into the old National Guard Armory in Linden. The facility boasts its own shooting range, suitable for both rifle and archery. Will’s mother, Beth Yates, had just been hired to be the 4-H coordinator for the office. Friday put her in charge of developing shooting sports for the county youth. Although Yates never had any experience with shooting sports, she and her husband attended training sessions and kicked off recruitment for the team, which began practicing in December. Now the push begins to recruit more shooters to compete in state and, hopefully, nationals next year, she said.

“It was really good timing,” said Cannon. “Everything came together at the right time.”