Archers formed a long line over the length of an indoor athletic facility to shoot arrows at targets during the 11th state high school archery tournament in Minnesota. Yet this long line of competitors represented only a fraction of everyone in the tournament.
The tournament has grown from 67 archers its first year to 1,313 this year. The growth reflects a booming interest in recreational archery, said Kraig Kiger, who oversees the Archery in the Schools Program for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“Movie characters helped inspire some of the interest, but not all,” Kiger said. “Being a good archer requires concentration, focus, persistence and determination – all attributes that translate into success in other pursuits. Competitors have a great deal of control over developing their own potential. They don’t need to be the biggest, fastest or strongest. It’s all about practice and problem solving.”
The DNR’s archery program is part of the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) that aims to train teachers and provide students with the best equipment, training and curriculum available for the lowest price. It’s NASP, rather than the Minnesota State High School League, that sanctions state and national tournaments where students’ scores contribute to individual and team results.
Feeding the growth are clubs like the North Country Bow Hunters Chapter of Safari Club International, which has run and made the state tournament possible for the past six years.
“By insuring, staffing and running the state tournament, we’re happy to provide an opportunity that might not otherwise exist for youth archers,” said Scott Talbot, a member of the chapter’s board of directors. “We enjoy seeing the tremendous growth of the sport through the NASP program here in Minnesota, and we see only growth from here forward.”
In this year’s tournament held March 20-21, St. Croix Preparatory Academy won the team competition, with Grand Rapids High School coming in second.
In overall individual standings, Allison Shorter of New Prague High School had the highest score for girls, with Jenna Amey of White Bear Lake Area High School second. Wesley Joarnt of St. Croix Prep was first overall for boys, and second place went to Mitch Munion of Mahtomedi Public Schools.
In all, nearly 200,000 teacher-reported students in Minnesota participate in archery in the schools programs. Most schools have only an in-school program, but about 10 percent of them have additional after-school archery programs that develop into a competitive team.
“Schools can receive DNR grant money for archery programs,” Kiger said. “Through the grant, we can help match a school’s contribution toward starting an archery program, with the school’s minimum financial contribution set at $1,600.”