YOUNG WARD – Only four students will get the chance to represent Utah in the Light Rifle portion of the National Junior High Finals Rodeo (NJHFR). Willow Valley Middle School 6th grader Brock Alder placed fifth in the state competition in May, coming up just one spot short of being able to travel to Iowa and compete on the national level.
But Alder felt that somehow he was still going to advance.
“I had a feeling that I was going to go to nationals,” he said. “That whole week and about three weeks before that I just got this feeling in my gut that I was going to Iowa.”
His gut feeling was correct. He learned in early June that one of the other qualifying competitors dropped out, leaving one spot open for an alternate to advance. It didn’t leave him much time to prepare though, the competition will run June 21 -27.
“At the beginning of the season I set that as a goal to make it to nationals,” he said. “I accomplished it, so I was really excited. I was just so happy and that whole week I was hyped up and couldn’t sleep.”
Since learning he will be able to advance, Alder said he has been shooting his .22 almost everyday. He will be competing alongside 1,000 other junior high-aged competitors that makes up the world’s largest junior high rodeo. He is one of about 75 competitors in the National Rifle Association-sponsored Light Rifle event. In addition to Utah, 41 other states will be represented with five Canadian provinces and Australia.
According to Alder’s mother, Jenny Alder, Brock will take part in a practice shoot Monday and the first round of the competition shoot will be held Tuesday. Wednesday’s competition will be a family shoot – each competitor chooses a family member to shoot with as part of the competition.
“We had a shoot-off between my dad and my brother and my dad won it,” Brock said. “So he’ll come shoot it with me.”
The 20 highest scorers of the first two rounds will be able to compete Saturday for the chance to be named a NJHFR National Champion. More than $75,000 in prizes will be awarded during the rodeo, as well as more than $100,000 in college scholarships. Alder has a plan in mind for how he wants to approach next week’s competition.
“I’m not really shooting for any national titles this year,” he said. “I want to go and I want to see how it all works so next year I can come back and place in the top 10 and the year after that come back and be a national champ.”
Alder, who will be traveling with his family, is planning on making the most of his trip to Iowa. In addition to representing Utah in the NJHFR, he said he is anticipating traveling across the Iowa border to Moline, Illinois and visiting the city where the John Deere tractor company got its start.
“I’m pretty passionate about farming,” he said. “It’s one of the things I want to do when I grow up.”
Alder said he is grateful for everyone who has helped him get to this point.
“My dad especially,” he said. “He helped me a lot and gave me my first gun when I was 8 and went out and shot it with me.”
Alder said he is looking forward to his high school years, when the competitions also include trap shooting.