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4-H archery community brings different Florida teams together for state match

Easton Newberry Sports Complex hosted the Florida 4-H State Archery match. (Bryce Mitchell/WUFT News)
Easton Newberry Sports Complex hosted the Florida 4-H State Archery match. (Bryce Mitchell/WUFT News)

In a world dominated by classic sports like baseball or soccer, Florida youths are showing the competition and dedication that is the sport of archery.

Archery can be an alluring sport for kids with the thrill of shooting fast-moving arrows at a faraway target. But for parents, there are benefits as well.

The Florida 4-H State Archery match was held this Saturday and Sunday at the Easton Newberry Sports Complex.

Thirty-five-year-old coach Curtis Nutter said archery teaches kids how to challenge themselves as well as responsibility and dedication. Nutter is one of two coaches for the Countryside 4-H archery group in Alachua County.

Nutter is no stranger to the 4-H community. Despite being a coach and volunteer now, he experienced 4-H as a child too. Growing up in Oklahoma, there was only one club in his town. When he came to Florida, he was shocked and impressed by the number of clubs in the area.

This weekend’s competition included a junior group, 8 to 10 years old, an intermediate group, 11 to 13 years old, and a senior group aged 14 to 18. The two events were FITA, field target shooting, and 3D shooting. The 3D targets were foam animals like deer, turkey and boars.

For FITA, juniors shot from 10 and 20 meters while intermediates shot from 20 and 30 meters. Seniors shot from 30, 40, 50 and 60 meters.

The competition was an all-day endeavor. Families and friends showed up with support hauling tents, chairs and food. There were various Florida groups in attendance representing their respective 4-H clubs.

Jennifer Lillie is the mother of two archers from the Homegrown 4-H Club in Polk County. Her youngest, 10-year-old Hadassah has been doing archery since she was 3 years old. Her son, Chris, has had a bow in his hands since he was 8 and competed in the senior group this weekend.

“I like shooting a lot, especially with my combat,” Hadassah said.

Homegrown is one of the few homeschool clubs in Polk County and after Lillie saw that the club offered archery, she thought it sounded fun.

“It always seemed fun because you see it on TV and I didn’t have that opportunity and that was the best way to get involved with archery,” Lillie said.

Hadassah Lillie, 10, notched her arrow in her compound bow at the state event. (Bryce Mitchell/WUFT News)
Hadassah Lillie, 10, notched her arrow in her compound bow at the state event. (Bryce Mitchell/WUFT News)

Besides spectating the shooting sport, Lillie loved to see the growing camaraderie between the kids on the team.

“I take a lot of pride just watching our kids show leadership and helping each other out,” Lillie said.

She had never seen her son Chris so excited for the state match and said it was because of the club's energy.

“I have the best club in the county,” Lillie said.

Nutter highlighted that participants are divided into groups that don’t include any of their teammates. He said that the group must agree on the scores of each member and that the system encourages kids to make new friends.

Eight-year-old Matthew Hullett is new to the 4-H archery community and represented the Highlands County 4-H club this weekend. It was the first competition of his archery career.

“So far this season, because it’s his first, we’re still learning obviously, especially myself, I don’t know much about it,” Shelly Hullett, Matthew’s mom, said.

Being new to the 4-H program, Shelly Hullett said that the community has been wonderful.

“They all just really are about making sure the kids learn something but have fun at the same time,” Hullett said.

She said there’s a focus on children’s interests and what’s best for them to help them become more well-rounded.

Bryce is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing