Barta Pro Bowl bound

Doreen Heintz
Sports Editor

Kendall Barta (left) and Anna Zimmer represent Lewistown and the state of Montana at the NFL Denver Bronco Team Championship of the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition in Denver on Sunday, Dec. 18. Barta finished first in the boys’ 14-15 year old age group, while Zimmer finished second in the girls’ 14-15 year old age group. Barta’s score was in the top four of the 32-team competitions. He will now compete at the National PPK competition in Orlando, Florida during the Pro Bowl.                   Photo courtesy of Susan Barta

Coming home from Denver on Monday, Susan Barta got an email on her phone telling her that her son, Kendall, had qualified for the National Football League Punt, Pass and Kick championship competition. As Kendall was driving when the text came in, part of his hours necessary for driver’s education, and the roads were not in the best condition, Susan dared not say anything to him for fear it might be a distraction.
Susan waited until Tuesday morning to tell Kendall and his younger brother, Carson. She got them up a little earlier than usual to give Kendall the good news.
“It was so great, and I was so excited,” Kendall admitted after finding out the good news.
“We were all going crazy,” chimed in Carson.
The trip at the end of the month to the Pro Bowl in Orlando, Florida, will be a trip of a lifetime for the Barta family. PPK pays for Kendall and one family member to fly to Orlando, but all four members of the Barta family are going. It is too big of an event for anyone to miss.
The Pro Bowl, which is the NFL All-Star game minus the players of the two teams, competing in the Super Bowl, is the weekend before the Super Bowl. The actual day of the Pro Bowl is Sunday, Jan. 29.
Kendall and his family will be in Orlando Jan. 26-30.

Competes in Bronco team championship for second consecutive year
Kendall has competed in the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competition for eight years. He has competed in the team championships in Denver for the past four years. Last year, Kendall finished fourth at the team championship.
“The competition was really close in Denver,” said Kendall. “When I am competing, I concentrate on my form and accuracy and try not to pay attention to the other competitors.”
Each competitor gets one opportunity to pass the football, kick it and punt it. “Shanking a punt will do a competitor in.,” said Kendall.
Kendall’s concentration paid off. He punted the football 106 feet, 6 inches; passed the ball 159 feet, 6 inches; and kicked the ball 116 feet, 1 inch for a total of 382 feet, 1 inch. Distance is not the only part of the competition, but accuracy is also important. Points are deducted for how far the ball is away from a straight line during each competition.
“I hit the line on my throw,” Kendall said, “and was really close to the line on my punt and kick. My throw was 25 yards further than I had thrown before.”
In order to qualify for the national competition, Kendall had to win the local competition here in Lewistown, which is sponsored by the Jaycees. The next stage was a sectional competition also held in Lewistown. Not only did Kendall win the sectional competition, but he also was in the top four of the 10 sectional winners in his age group. That qualified him for the Denver Bronco team competition in Denver on Dec. 18. Competitors in Denver were from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, western Kansas and eastern and central Montana. After winning the team competition over an athlete who represented the Broncos at least year’s national competition, Kendall had to wait to see if his total would place him in the top four of the 32 team competitions throughout the United States. Each NFL team holds its own team competition. Luckily Denver was one of the last team competitions this year so Kendall did not have to wait long to find out he qualified.

Barta spent extra time during football practice honing his skills
Knowing this was his final year of being able to compete in PPK, Kendall said he spent some time during football practice every day working on the three skills.
“My coach Orin Johnson spent time with me after almost every practice helping me with my skills,” said Kendall. “My dad also worked with me.”
Kendall knows winter is not conducive to practicing, but he still is going to continue working.
“It may be cold, but I know I can continue to do it,” he said.  
Up to this point, Kendall’s favorite PPK memory was walking out into Bronco Stadium for the first time and seeing all the fans watching the competitors “do their thing.” Soon he will have a new favorite memory after competing against three other boys his age for a national championship.
Kendall is one of two boys from Montana who will be competing at the National PPK competition. Jaxon King from Billings will be competing in the 6-7 year age group at Orlando. This is the first time Montana has sent two PPK competitors to the national championships.
Montana has produced 10 national finalists and four national champions over the past 21 years.

Zimmer falls just short of winning team championship
Kendall Barta was not the only Lewistown athlete competing in Denver at the Bronco’s team championship. Anna Zimmer also competed and finished second, just one foot short of first-place. For Anna this was her third time competing at the team championship. This was Zimmer’s highest finish, and it is also her final year of competition.




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