HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — More than 1,400 students from elementary to high school are stepping wide eyed into an arena they may never have envisioned seeing, much less playing in. The students are all participants in the state’s Archery in Schools program and this weekend they are shooting at the Elkview Middle School Invitational Tournament.

Crystal Thomas

High School and Middle School students toe the line to release arrows inside Marshall’s indoor practice facility in Huntington.

However, instead of shooting inside the gymnasium at Elkview Middle School where the tournament is normally held, they’re shooting inside the Chris Cline Athletic Complex at Marshall University.

“We played a football game down there in 2016 and just had a great turnout,” said Eddie Gray, the archery coach and athletic director at Elkview Middle School. “I told them I’d really like to host an archery tournament there. We’ve looked at it a couple of times and here we go.”

The 2016 flood played havoc with the Elk River community. Ever since the flood destroyed Herbert Hoover High School, Elkview Middle has been forced to share it’s gymnasium with the high school. Now, with the portable classrooms for Hoover built in the Middle School parking lot, a tournament featuring 1,400 students was out of the question.

However, Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick grew up in the Elk River community and was eager to help. Marshall was among the first to collect relieve supplies and delivering them in the wake of the 2016 disaster and they’ve been willing to help in any way possible.

“I was blown away when I found out how many kids were going to come to our campus and compete in archery,” said Hamrick.

Elkview Middle School was the first in West Virginia to field an Archery in Schools team. The program was initiated by Hamrick’s brother Ed Hamrick who was at the time the Director of the West Virginia DNR.

“These kids competing at an early age, they’ll just continue to be outdoorsmen and it’s going to protect our beautiful state,” said Hamrick. “Hunting and fishing is just such a part of what we do in West Virginia.”

Gray said the initial plan was to stage a tournament drawing shooters from three states. However, the idea hit a scheduling snag since it was the weekend of the Kentucky state archery tournament and a huge regional tournament in Ohio. But Gray wasn’t discouraged.

“We’ve got about 1,400 kids from all over the state,” he said. “I’m tickled to death.”

The young shooters come to Huntington for the tournament from as far away as Moundsville, Wheeling, and Martinsburg. Hamrick admitted, it’s not a bad thing to have 1,400 potential future students paying a visit to your campus.

“Marshall University is thrilled to host all of these high school and middle school students on our campus,” said Hamrick. “To be honest, I had no idea this many kids in West Virginia competed in archery. I’m thrilled to see that, but more than that I’m excited that all of these kids from all over the state are going to get the chance to come here and see Marshall University.”

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