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Dunnellon's Trace Cannon qualifies for 4-H national championships in archery and rifle

Ocala StarBanner logo Ocala StarBanner 6/15/2021 Josh Kimble, Ocala Star-Banner

It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say that Trace Cannon has been hunting his entire life.

From play-shooting at his grandpa with a suction cup bow and arrow at age 2, to holding a rifle in his hands for the first time when he was 3, it’s just always been a part of who he is.

“My earliest memories of hunting are my grandpa carrying me to the stand because the grass was too tall for me. That’s just something I’ve done my whole life,” said Cannon.

Now, at 17 years old and a rising senior at Dunnellon High School, Cannon has a chance to use his vast wealth of knowledge in shooting sports on a national scale.

He recently qualified for the 2021 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in two different sports - Compound Bow and Smallbore Rifle - and is heading to Grand Island, Nebraska to compete from June 20-25.

Cannon got his first real bow when he was 8 years old. A few years later, his aunt started a local 4-H chapter in order to show livestock, and, as a family with a history of hunting, it was only natural that they got involved in the archery and rifle events too.

a person that is standing in the grass: Trace Cannon, 17, a senior at Dunnellon High School and a member the Four Rivers 4H Club, takes aim while practicing his archery skills on the family farm in Dunnellon Wednesday morning, June 9, 2021. He was a top finisher at state in both archery and rifle and has qualified for nationals in Nebraska. He will be competing in June in Nebraska with a four person team. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2021 © Doug Engle, Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner Trace Cannon, 17, a senior at Dunnellon High School and a member the Four Rivers 4H Club, takes aim while practicing his archery skills on the family farm in Dunnellon Wednesday morning, June 9, 2021. He was a top finisher at state in both archery and rifle and has qualified for nationals in Nebraska. He will be competing in June in Nebraska with a four person team. [Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]2021

He shoots his bow with a small 4-H group from around the Dunnellon area - usually no bigger than eight others across all age groups. A couple of parents are certified as coaches.

This year, however, the entire competition season was canceled due to COVID-19, except for the national qualifier event. In fact, Cannon didn’t find out until two weeks before that he’d be able to compete at the qualifier, and he immediately got back to work.

“It definitely ramped up what I had been doing. I’m putting in between 50 and 150 arrows a day to get ready for nationals and that was very much the same for the qualifier. Just trying to get ready, get back in the rhythm because 90 percent of the battle with archery is just muscle memory.”

a man riding on the back of a boat: Trace Cannon, a senior at Dunnellon High School and a member of the local 4-H club, pulls arrows out of a target while practicing his archery skills on the family farm in Dunnellon. Cannon qualified for the 2021 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska in both archery and rifle. © Doug Engle, Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner Trace Cannon, a senior at Dunnellon High School and a member of the local 4-H club, pulls arrows out of a target while practicing his archery skills on the family farm in Dunnellon. Cannon qualified for the 2021 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska in both archery and rifle.

He shot a 310 in Fita and a 174 in the Field and 3D events to place 4th at the qualifier. With that score, he automatically qualified for nationals, joining a team of three other archers from around Florida.

Cannon is also a national qualifier in Smallbore Rifle. While he’s been shooting guns his whole life, he had actually never competed in the sport until a year ago. 

And due to the canceled season, all of his rifle scores had to be mailed in rather than competing in person.

“I’ve still never been to a rifle competition,” said Cannon. 

He shot a 505 in the CMP (Civilian Marksmanship Program) events and a 233 in tNRA (National Rifle Association) events to qualify. 

a man holding a baseball bat: Trace Cannon, a senior at Dunnellon High School and a member of the local 4-H club, takes aim with his .22 rifle while on the family farm in Dunnellon. Cannon qualified for the 2021 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska in both archery and rifle. © Doug Engle, Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner Trace Cannon, a senior at Dunnellon High School and a member of the local 4-H club, takes aim with his .22 rifle while on the family farm in Dunnellon. Cannon qualified for the 2021 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska in both archery and rifle.

Unfortunately, both the compound archery and smallbore rifle events are scheduled for the same times at nationals, meaning Cannon had to choose only one to compete in. He chose archery.

However, Cannon won’t be the same archer at nationals that he’s been all his life shooting targets on his family’s farm. He saw a difference in the way he shot compared to the three competitors who scored above him at the qualifier and he decided he needed to do something about it.

“I had to change probably 75 percent of the shooting style that I’ve done my entire life here in the last week,” said Cannon. “There were some obvious differences in form and consistency from the other competitors so I knew I had to do something to change.”

He’s been working on his new form with a coach at Arrowhead Archery in Tampa, and while he’s hoping it pays off when it comes time to compete, he’s also taking all of this as a learning experience.

“It’s a lot of pressure. I’d really like to go out there and represent [Florida and Marion County] well,” said Cannon. 

“I have no idea what to expect where I’m going to wind up placing. It’s just a matter of doing the best I can at this point and to keep improving as I go. When I get out there, I’ll have three hours of practice time a day with a whole other set of coaches and set of kids that I’ve never shot in front of before, and that’s just added knowledge. There’s just always something else to learn, something else to practice, another skill to perfect, and that’s part of the fun of it.”

This article originally appeared on Ocala Star-Banner: Dunnellon's Trace Cannon qualifies for 4-H national championships in archery and rifle

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