Top shot heads to nationals: 4-H'er trained for years with father

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Cody Miller has been shooting competitively with his father, Jim Miller, for nearly nine years.

All that hard work has resulted in Cody qualifying to compete in the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska, on June 24-29.

Cody is a 16-year-old junior at Hunt High School and a longstanding member of the Rock Ridge 4-H Club and the Wilson County 4-H Shooting Sports Club.

“I started on the Wilson County 4-H team when I was 9,” Cody said as he prepared to practice on a range he and his father have established near their Rock Ridge home. “I’m excited about it. I’m a little bit nervous, but I guess that’s a good thing.”

“At the state 4-H competition, they invite a certain number of the top qualifiers to try out for the national team and that happened to me two years ago,” Cody said. “Then I qualified to join the national team and joined as an alternate position. So I practiced with the team for one year as an alternate. So if something were to happen I would have gone. This year is my second year practicing with the team, and I am a member of the actual team this year.”

Cody said his father has been a big help through the years.

“He kind of helps me get all of my stuff together,” Cody said. “I started shooting with him when I was younger, so he has pretty much taught me everything I know about it.”

The two can converse throughout a shooting practice.

“He keeps my head in the game,” Cody said.

During the competition, Cody will be shooting from various positions at targets 40 to 100 yards using a .22-caliber match-grade rifle.

For Cody, hitting the targets is more than breathing control and pulling the trigger.

“There is a lot that goes into it, more than I can really explain,” Cody said.

“He has worked extremely hard shooting for the last nine years or so on the 4-H shooting team,” said Jim Miller. “We are really proud of the amount of commitment and dedication he has put forth to make the practices and put in the time that it takes to be able to make the national team. I am super proud.”

Cody is shooting about six times a week to prepare for the competition. A round of shooting might take three or four hours to go through each discipline.

Homework and school obligations don’t allow Cody to practice every day.

“He tries to get in that many days, especially right here at the end with the competition coming up her in June,” said Miller, who is a pretty good rifleman but admits he isn’t up there with his son.

“Not really. Not as good as him,” Miller said. “I do some spotting for him during the practice. During some of the competitions that we have gone to in preparation for the nationals I have helped him spot some.”

Other times, Cody’s team members will spot and Cody will spot for them.

Miller said that shooting sports is a life sport.

“One day I’m going to be too old that I can’t play football and basketball and that kind of thing, but I think I will always be able to shoot and it will be something that we can do together for a long time to come,” Miller said.

Preparing for nationals has been a challenge.

“We have had to make a lot of sacrifices and stuff to get the equipment that is needed to be able to make it to nationals, but it has been a lot of fun for me and him and his mother and sister as well,” Miller said. “We are very thankful that Wilson County 4-H is able to have a shooting sports club locally. There’s a lot of counties that, I guess, they don’t know what they are missing. Wilson County has had several kids to represent Wilson County in the past in the shotgun discipline and other rifle disciplines as well, so it’s carrying on a tradition I guess.”

The Wilson County 4-H Shooting Sports Club has about 30 members.

“They are required to attend a set number of practices, complete service projects, and assist with range set-up, clean-up, and maintenance to be eligible to compete at tournaments,” said Jessica S. Manning, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Wilson County 4-H and youth development agent.

“Wilson has done very well at the regional and state tournament in past years,” Manning said. “The fact that we have had a representative from our county speaks volumes. We are very proud of all the accomplishments Cody has made with shooting sports. He will not only represent our county team well, but Cody will also be a great ambassador for the county 4-H program. He is a well-rounded individual and has worked hard for all his successes. The Wilson County 4-H office wishes him the best of luck in Nebraska and hopes the experience will yield a lifetime of memories.”