Spink County team finds success on national stage

Farm Forum

Not many 15-year-olds can say they have competed for a national title multiple times, but Sadie Vander Wal can.

Vander Wal, along with teammates Tomlyn Toy, Chloey Hansen, Skyann Stroud, Ivan Blume and alternates Dirby Bawek and Mitchell Vander Wal, traveled to Rogers, Ark. — the headquarters of Daisy Outdoor Products — to compete in the 2016 Daisy National BB Gun Championships. The group is a part of the Spink County Shootings Sports team.

The Spink County team, coached by Dane Lambert and Jim Hansen, took third nationally, behind a squad from Pierre and a team from Wyandotte County, Kan. The coaches have been leading the Spink County program since it formed 25 years ago and were recognized for their dedication at the national tournament.

The Spink County team qualified for the national competition after placing in the top third at a state competition. In addition to the Pierre Junior Shooters, the Humboldt Sharpshooters took sixth and the Lake County Aces were 24th in the field of 59.

The Daisy BB gun tournaments consist of shooting 10 recorded shots from each of four positions — prone, standing, sitting and kneeling — and taking a 50-question test on rules and gun safety. Each shooting position, as well as the test, are worth 100 points for a total of 500.

It was the third trip to the competition for Sadie Vander Wal, who was a part of the team two years ago and an alternate two years before that. She finished with 474 points this year and 12 centers — nearly her average of 480. Shooters get 10 points for a center shot and the number of points decreases as the mark moves further from the bullseye.

“With it being a national competition and there being added pressure, I didn’t expect to shoot that well,” Vander Wal said. “That was a good average score for me. That’s where I wanted to be. Our whole team shot about that average and that was why we were so consistent.”

Vander Wal began shooting when she joined the Spink County 4-H program at age 8. It wasn’t her idea, but rather her parents wanted her to learn how to handle a weapon safely.

“I had never touched a gun before and it was really scary for me,” Vander Wal said. “I did not decide to start at all. That was my parents, but after a while, I had the drive to do it myself.”

Vander Wal will turn 16 in a couple of weeks and age out of the Daisy BB Gun program. She plans to fill the void by becoming more involved with air rifle through 4-H.

“For sure air rifle, maybe air pistol and .22,” she said. “I’ll have to see what my 4-H coaches feel is right for me.”

For now, she is happy with her bronze metal.

“I wanted to go out with a bang, because it was my last year,” Vander Wal said. “I wanted to end it on a high note. I’ve been working toward this since I was 8. We got second two years ago and I wanted to come back one more time and get on that podium.”

In the individual placings, Hansen placed third in the prone position, while Dirby Bawek was second in the alternates.

Blume was 19th overall with 476 points and 14 centers (prone 94-4, standing 93-2, sitting 96-5, kneeling 93-3). For comparison, the individual national champion, Grace Hockenberry, had a score of 487 and 22 centers.

Bawek was 12th among alternates with 467 points and 12 centers (prone 99-7, standing 84-1, sitting 92-2, kneeling 92-2). Each of the seven Spink County shooters scored 100 points on the test.

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