Skyler Klinedinst has loved shooting ever since he could hold a gun.
That might not be all that surprising, especially considering his father does gunsmithing as a hobby and his grandparents are avid hunters.
It also might not be surprising that, after years of hard work and practice, Skyler, now 17, has become an expert marksman. On his first mentored pheasant hunt, he bagged a bird with his first shot. He shot his first deer when he was just 14.
Now, the York Township teenager has qualified for the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships, set for June 26 through July 1 in Grand Island, Nebraska. He will compete in the Senior Air Pistol Division against dozens of the best 14-18-year-old shooters in the nation. He earned his berth after winning the Pennsylvania 4-H state crown. It's his first trip to the national competition.
What might be surprising, however, is that Skyler has achieved his remarkable success despite dealing with multiple learning disabilities.
Skyler, according to his mother, Jean, can have problems planning, prioritizing activities and dealing appropriately with some social situations. His fine motor skills also can be a problem, making it difficult for him to use a pen or pencil.
Shooting a gun — even while using just one hand in air pistol competitions — presents little problem, however.
“When you're shooting, it's just a matter of squeezing,” Jean said. “He's using a different group of muscles.”
His disabilities also have not prevented Skyler from thriving in the classroom at Agora Cyber Charter School, where he's a junior honors student who currently holds 4.0 grade-point average. He's hoping to go to college and major in biochemistry, with computer science as a possible backup.
Skyler believes his shooting has helped him excel in the classroom.
“Shooting is a lot about your frame of mind. You need to keep yourself calm and focused on the target, and only the target,” Skyler said. “... You need to block out the noise around you. I definitely think it helps with my ADHD.”
His mother agreed.
“(Shooting) has given him some confidence,” Jean said. “He struggles with getting his school work done in a timely fashion sometimes. To have something that he's successful with helps boost him up. It lets him know this is something he can do (well). … In shooting, he gets no special concessions (because of his disabilities). It's all on his own.”
Skyler said much of the credit for his shooting accomplishments must go to his 4-H coaches in York, Dave Albright and Stephanie Dorer.
“4-H has been a great help with everything,” Skyler said.
In addition, the flexibility of attending a cyber charter school has been very beneficial, according to Skyler's mother.
“The psychologist says he's in the best situation possible,” Jean said. “It makes it easier for practice. If he wants to take time off from school work, we live in the country, so he can go practice shooting in the backyard.”
In a little more than a month, Skyler will learn if that practice will pay off with a national championship.
He's feeling good about his chances.
“I'm pretty confident that I'll give a pretty good showing for Pennsylvania 4-H,” he said.
Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Skyler Klinedinst is looking for sponsorships to help defray the cost of attending the national competition in Nebraska, which is estimated at $4,500. Those interested in supporting him should contact Lisa Witmer, the extension educator at the 4-H office in York at firstname.lastname@example.org, at (717) 840-7408 or at 112 Pleasant Acres Road, York, Pa., 17402.