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Pandemic leads to 4-H state shoot cancellation

High school baseball, softball and other spring programs aren’t the only sports to fall victim to the coronavirus. Franklin County’s 4-H shooting team is hanging it up, as Alabama 4-H has canceled the 2020 state championship.

Originally set for April 17-19, the championship was officially canceled by the Alabama Cooperative Extension March 20.

“This is a difficult decision and one not taken lightly,” explained the cancellation notice from Molly Gregg, assistant director of 4-H Youth Development. “The coronavirus threat is impacting everyone’s life. The health and well-being of our youth, families, volunteers and the general public is of the utmost importance to Alabama 4-H.”

Ten team members on the local team were slated to attend, but coach Wade Willingham of Cedar Hill Trap Range said he found out Monday about the cancellation.

“It’s over. I don’t reckon they are going to reschedule it,” Willingham said. “We were planning and ready for it, but I guess this is more important – to stay away.”

Willingham said the local 4-H program has participated in the state shoot for many years, picking it back up a few years ago after a hiatus from attending. “I was looking forward to it,” Willingham said. He canceled Cedar’s Hill regular Tuesday night shoot this week, with weather also being a factor, and said he is continuing to stay aware of guidance and restrictions from the state and federal level in regards to future gatherings.

“We’re still staying with groups no more than 25, and we have plenty of room where we can stay away from each other, so to speak,” he said. “I’m just going week to week with my decision on the coronavirus.”

Willingham has 15 shooters planning to go to the AIM Grand Championships over Memorial Day weekend – a competition he can only hope doesn’t go the way of the 4-H event.

“Something tells me it’s probably going to be canceled too, but I hope it’s not,” he said. “I hope they get this under control.”

Leslie Goins, local 4-H agent with the county Extension, echoed Willingham’s disappointment about the cancellation.

“It is disappointing, but in these times it’s completely understandable,” she said.  “They waited until they absolutely knew they couldn’t do it, and I respect that.

“It’s just one year,” Goins added. “It’s no big deal. We’ll get back and going again and go next year … It could be worse.”

Gregg said the event will not be rescheduled.

“We love our youth and strive to provide safe, fun and educational learning opportunities to all our 4-H members. We understand the disappointment of all our youth that have worked so diligently on their own and with their teams and club,” she said. “The Alabama 4-H Shooting Sports team of staff, leaders, volunteers and supporters had planned these events and were ready to deliver, and we are so very saddened to not be able to carry out these important events.”

A notice on the Alabama 4-H SAFE Facebook page announcing the cancellation assures teams the state 4-H office will reimburse any registration fees collected to date.

“These decisions are so hard and disappoint the staff as much as our youth, families and partners,” the announcement notes. “We are so sorry about the situation we all find ourselves (in). Let’s all continue to seek and find joy to share.*

“Thank you everyone for your understanding,” added Gregg, “and we hope everyone stays safe and healthy during this time of uncertainty.”