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"We started in 2004 as a pilot program with only 19 schools," said DNR project coordinator Scott Warner. "Now we’ve got more than 250 schools."
Those students are preparing for the state tournament coming up March 26th at the Veterans Memorial Field house. The gathering will be the largest indoor youth archery tournament in state history. The DNR indicates 625 shooters are registered to participate, representing 50 schools across the state.
Warner says the shooters will be a team representing their school as well as shooting for individual honors. He says the pride created in these shooting teams is doing more than honing the next generation of archery enthusiasts.
"Part of the program is to get kids excited about school," said Warner. "We hear stories all the time about parents who were worried about their kids dropping out of school and this is the one thing that gets them excited to go to school every day."
The DNR stages regular training programs for those wanting to be an archery coach. Once a school has a coach to step forward and be certified, they can move forward. Schools are allowed latitude to structure the program to whatever fits their curriculum. Some use the program as a full physical education class, others use it as an after school activity.
"Most of us who went to school probably weren’t the most athletic," said Warner. "But it’s not always the strongest or fastest that becomes the best archer. Sometimes the smallest girl in the group is the best shot."
Some of the winners in the state Archery Tournament will advance to the national level of competition later this year to be held in