Barron’s Barrels Win National 4-H Skeet Competition
by Cole Sikes
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. — Caymen Barron, Talladega County 4-H member, is a distinguished 4-H shotgun champion. He recently represented Alabama 4-H at the National 4-H Shooting Sports Championship, where he won first place individually in skeet shooting. While his journey wasn’t easy, it was well worth the ride.
Barron started participating in Alabama 4-H while in middle school after he heard about sign-ups for 4-H over the school intercom system. He jumped in the program and enjoyed learning multiple new life skills. However, there was one club that piqued his interest—shooting sports.
“It’s always a different challenge,” Barron said. “Whether it’s mental, weather or stamina, it’s always different and it keeps your mind sharp.”
An avid baseball player, Barron enjoys hunting and competing in anything with teammates and friends. Unfortunately, his career on the dirt diamond was halted by two knee injuries. He was no longer able to compete in baseball and decided to pursue shooting sports with his father, who became a 4-H Shooting Awareness Fun Education (SAFE) program volunteer coach.
“The Talladega 4-H shooting sports program has been affiliated with Sylacauga City Schools for close to 15 years,” said Kim Good, Alabama 4-H Foundation regional Extension agent. “The program is truly volunteer led. They practice weekly and volunteer coaches are invested in the success of their participants.”
The 4-H SAFE program covers shooting safety by teaching responsible handling, use and storage. The SAFE program aims to empower youth through marksmanship. Every shooting event operates under the supervision of adult volunteers. These supervisors are certified state 4-H coaches who help each participant learn the principles of responsible firearm and bow ownership.
A Great Mentor
Justin Browning, a volunteer 4-H SAFE shooting coach, has been teaching 4-H members to shoot shotguns for more than a decade. When Browning is not teaching middle school at Sylacauga City Schools, he dedicates his time to teaching shotgun shooting in the 4-H SAFE program. Barron and his father were introduced to competitive shooting by Browning and his involvement with Alabama 4-H.
“Alabama 4-H offers unique opportunities for all young people,” Browning said. “If traditional sports are not suitable, I urge parents to let their children try competition shooting through 4-H.”
Barron quickly learned the ropes of competitive shotgun shooting. He gravitated toward skeet shooting, and according to Browning, he quickly fell in love with it.
“Traditional sports weren’t an option for Caymen, so he found something that he could do for the rest of his life,” Browning said. “Without 4-H, he would not be shooting today.”
Barron’s skill progressed year after year, and he became proficient in shooting skeet. He was so skilled, that he became eligible to compete with a Cullman County team at the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) State Championship in 2022. His SCTP team advanced to the national competition, which was held in Illinois.
As the competition neared, Barron took a family blow when his father tragically passed away. Barron stepped back from shooting for a while to grieve.
“It was exceptionally hard for Caymen after he lost his dad and also a huge loss for the team,” Good said. “David (Barron’s dad) was a fundraiser, cheerleader and coach for the 4-H SAFE shooting sports team in Talladega County.”
Despite his personal loss, Barron still traveled to perform in the contest. Individually, he finished in a four-way tie for first place that year. The team didn’t place, but they learned from the experience and went into the offseason with an urge to get better.
In Barron’s last chance at competing with Alabama 4-H because of the impending age restriction, he set his eyes on another championship appearance in 2023. He and Browning began working together again.
“I’ve known Justin all through school,” Barron said. “Ever since I signed up for the SAFE program, Justin has been there every step of the way. I couldn’t do it without him.”
Hour after hour was logged busting clays and honing his skills to perfect his technique. The Talladega County 4-H SAFE team advanced after winning the Alabama 4-H Shotgun Championship.
The 2023 National 4-H Shooting Sports Championship was held in Grand Island, Nebraska, more than 1,000 miles away from Barron’s home. He vividly remembers Browning pulling up in his truck and saying, “Hop in. We’re going.” The group set off to the Midwest, eager to see what was in store for Barron and the team.
“We probably slept most of the way,” Barron said with a laugh. “I don’t think Justin was very happy that he didn’t have someone to talk to for a majority of the ride.”
After arriving at the competition grounds in Nebraska, Barron met some new challenges from Mother Nature. Prairie winds are more intense than those at home in Alabama. This caused sporting clays to dip and dive along with the wind’s direction. Despite the intense conditions, Barron got to work smashing sporting clays.
“The competition is different there,” Barron said. “It’s nowhere near the same climate. The wind was outrageous. At first, I performed mediocre. But I walked in with my head held high and stayed focused and stayed on my game.”
Barron was so on his game that he went 100 for 100 in consecutive skeet.
“I was a little mad about shooting 100 actually,” Barron said. “I almost missed one, but I ended up chipping it just enough to count. Usually, I don’t get shaky, but I did on that one.”
The final stage was set when another 4-H SAFE representative from Texas matched Barron’s perfect shooting score to create a tie. A winner-take-all shoot-off was next. Barron and the Texan traded shot after shot, but ultimately, the Sylacauga native was triumphant.
“I couldn’t do anything but hug him,” Browning said. “All the emotions started coming out. I was so proud of him.”
Good said Barron winning nationals was a goal that his father and former volunteer 4-H SAFE coach had.
“Caymen’s dad had a goal for him to win nationals,” Good said. “It was incredible to see him achieve their goal together and know his dad is smiling down on him.”
Barron returned home to many congratulations and love from his friends and family. He said this wouldn’t have been possible if he didn’t find 4-H nearly seven years ago.
“I always tell people it is relaxing,” Barron said. “It’s my getaway thing and second home. 4-H is the best starting tool where everyone is welcome. There are great people leading the programs. I want to thank Justin, my dad, mom, grandparents, Kim Good and all my sponsors for helping me achieve this championship.”
Good said Barron’s success inspires her to help other 4-H members also achieve their goals.
“I have watched Caymen grow, mature and develop his skills,” Good said. “He is a wonderful young man. It has been such an honor for me to watch him grow from a little kid who liked to shoot to an amazing young man and incredible marksman. We are so proud of his hard work and dedication.”
Staying on Target
All 4-H SAFE clubs operate on the principles of positive youth development. Alabama 4-H’s goal is to ensure that youth feel welcome in the program, that they grow in leadership independence and aspire to be generous in service to others.
Contact your local Alabama Extension office to see if there is a 4-H SAFE program in your county. For more information about other 4-H shooting sports disciplines, visit the 4-H SAFE web page on Alabama Extension’s website, www.aces.edu.
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