Archery program is on target

  • Monday, January 14, 2013

Students from around the Lowcountry participate in an archery competition held at The Oaks Christian School Dec. 14.

Interest in archery at local schools is on the rise.
With the help of a Department of Natural Resources program, several schools in the area have formed archery teams/clubs over the past few years. They include Oaks Christian, Summerville Catholic and Divine Redeemer Catholic schools as well as Ashley Ridge, Bishop England and Summerville high schools.
Students participate in International Style target archery competitions, receiving points for their accuracy hitting targets from 10 meters away and 15 meters away.
“To get a perfect score you have to put 15 arrows dead center from about 34 feet out and then another 15 dead center from about 50 feet,” said Mike Parker, who helped establish several of the local teams. “The diameter of the bull’s-eye is only three inches.”
A perfect score of 300 is very rare.
In addition to local competitions, teams have the opportunity to compete in the state championship tournament held every March. Archers placing in the top three for their division there as well as the team with the top score qualify for the national tournament held Mother’s Day weekend in Kentucky.
A school has to have a minimum of 16 archers to be eligible for team competition. Programs with less are classified as clubs but can sponsor individuals for the state and national competitions.
Most of the local schools are fairly new to the sport, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been competitive. The Oaks Christian School has produced a state archery champion each of the past three years.
Erica Thomas won the middle school girls’ division at the state shoot two straight years before moving on to Cane Bay High School. Both Crystal Owens and Maia Gillespie earned a state championship in the elementary school girls’ division.
At the 2012 national shoot Bishop England archer Ella Kokinda, a Goose Creek resident, placed second in the high school girls’ division. The feet resulted in her being the topic of an ESPN Online article and an Insider Edition segment.
High school archers have the opportunity to earn college scholarships, but being part of an archery team also has other benefits.
“One of the biggest things is it helps kids with their confidence,” Oaks Christian coach Jane Hartley said. “A lot of times you will have a kid join the team who isn’t as coordinated as some of their peers or maybe a kid who doesn’t get noticed a lot but when they pick up archery they see they do have a talent and some of their peers notice that as well. We’ve had some kids really blossom since they joined the team.”
A survey of teachers conducted by Responsive Management® indicates archery can also improve a student’s focus, motivation, behavior, attitude and relationships with teachers and other students.
Most of the equipment schools need is provided through the DNR’s National Archery in the Schools Program. Coaches for teams are also certified through the program, which is a joint venture between state departments of Education and Wildlife.
The program’s focus is to provide archery training for grades 4-12 with emphasis including archery history and safety strategies. Several archery equipment manufactures and organizations partner with the program.
“We are trying to get more schools to participate so the competition will be better,” Parker said. “Both public and private schools can form teams. All they have to do is contact the DNR or me. I’ll be happy to help get them started. Our biggest obstacle is finding someone willing to be a coach. People in the schools already have a busy schedule so it can be hard to find someone willing to do it unless they have a passion for bow hunting or something like that.”
Parker says archery is a sport just about anyone can participate in, even those who have a physical handicap.
“As long as there is a way for you to shoot the arrow you’re welcome,” Parker said. “The key is finding a bow that is a good weight for you and figuring out how high to aim it. Then it’s a matter of keeping the bow steady, which comes with practice. Kids love it and anyone willing to put in the practice can be good at it.”
Bows typically weight between 12 and 22 pounds.
Coaches say about the only thing the program and sponsors don’t provide is practice space. Practice can be held outside, but only when the weather is nice. School gyms are typically used for other sports such as basketball and wrestling so some local teams aren’t able to practice as often as they would like or hold competitions year round.
“We could really use an indoor facility where we could host shoot offs when the weather is cold,” Hartley said. “The Archery Shop is kind enough to let us use their facility three times a week for practice, but it isn’t large enough to host a shoot off.”
Her team took advantage of the recent mild weather and hosted an outdoor meet Dec. 14. Most of the local teams/clubs participated.
Oaks Christian, which offers grades K-3 through eighth, swept the elementary and middle school divisions.
For more information on the National Archery in the Schools Program, contact DNR Sgt. Dennetta Dawson at dawsonD@dnr.sc.gov.

Dec. 14 archery competition division winners:

Elementary Girls: Emily Scianna (219 score)
Elementary Boys: Ben O’Brien (230)
Middle School Girls: Amanda Rachel (267)
Middle School Boys: Jack Murray (257)
High School Girls: Ella Kokinda (239)
High School Boys: Dustin Wiggins
Coaches: Jane Hartley (266)

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