2014-04-10 / Outdoors

Youth archers aim high at state tournament

LANSING – Hartland’s archery teams swept the state’s first live National Archery in the Schools Program tournament last Saturday at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, winning the championship trophy in all three divisions – elementary, middle school and high school. (In addition, Hartland’s middle school B Team finished as runner-up.)

Coach Rob Jellison hopes the wins are just a first step toward bigger things. He has his sights set on national championships and thinks the Mount Pleasant tournament might give his shooters the boost they need to propel them onto the podium on the bigger stage.

In past years, the state tournaments were virtual affairs. Archery teams shot at their own gyms and then sent the scores to Lansing where they were compiled and winners were determined. Hartland has always done well; in the last five years, Hartland won 14 state championships.

Now that his teams have continued their winning ways at a live tournament, Jellison thinks they’re ready for the next challenge.

“This is what’s been missing,” said Jellison, a seventh-grade science teacher and former basketball coach.

“We do well in state, go down to the nationals, and finish near the top, but we can’t quite get those last few points,” he said. “When we go to the nationals in Kentucky, those kids are used to these big tournaments. The nationals are normal for them. It’s just another tournament.”

Jellison hopes his youngsters will feel that way now, too.

“We finished in fourth place last year,” he said. “We missed the podium by two points. We were there knocking on the door, we just couldn’t unlock it.”

The live statewide Archery in the Schools tournament was put together by the Department of Natural Resources as a way to give the state’s participants a bigger experience.

‘We wanted to give the students a chance to interact with other students, to meet others and see how they do it.,” said Kathy Garland, the DNR’s archery coordinator. “It’s just a great experience.”

The daylong event, which often featured a line of 80 archers – two basketball courts long – shooting at 40 targets, drew 460 students from 22 schools. Students came from as far away as Bark River to compete.

The event was marshaled largely by DNR employees, who volunteered to work the event, as well as some volunteers from the Archery in the Schools field staff. The event pretty much went off without a hitch.

Said Anastasia Bragg, an 18-year-old who was part of the third-place high school team of Christian Homeschoolers of Northern Michigan, out of Gaylord: “I’ve been to the nationals six times and I think this is the most efficient tournament I’ve ever been to.”

For the record, Gaylord St. Mary’s Cathedral finished second in the high school divisions while Fowlerville Junior High finished third in middle school competition.

Archers shot 20 arrows at two distances (10 meters and 15 meters) – five practice arrows and three “ends” of five arrows each. A perfect score is 300 (all arrows in the 10-point ring).

Although no archer managed perfection, the top shooters came close. A brother-and-sister team from Hartland – 16-year-old Chris Bee and 18-year-old Emily Bee – led all archers with scores of 294 and 292, respectively. Both said their performances were about average for them.

Teams are made up of 12 to 24 archers. The scores of the top 12 finishers – though no more than eight can be of the same gender – are added together to get the team score.

So what makes Hartland so good? Jellison said it’s all about mental toughness. “It’s all about form,” he said. “It’s not about the score.”

“You can’t control what happens down there,” he said, pointing at the target.

Jellison gave a “for instance”: A shooter puts two arrows in the 10-point ring, then his third arrow hits one of the others and bounces off and winds up in the a threepoint ring.

“It doesn’t matter that he made perfect shot; he’s still going to score a 3. So he just has to concentrate on what he can control.”

Jellison said that while basketball is “a physical sport,” archery is “100 percent mental.”

“Anyone can shoot archery,” he said. “A kid in a wheelchair can shoot archery. When I see our high school quarterback, standing next to the school valedictorian, standing next to the one Goth kid that doesn’t think anyone else can relate to him, all in the same line – as a teacher, that’s what I want to see. That says something to me.”

Jellison said when he started the program in 2007, he had 18 students show up. Now he has 250 or so try out every year. He took 108 students to the state tournament.

He said he sees other schools progressing and thinks the competition will be good for everyone.

For its part, the DNR was pleased with the way this first live tournament played out.

Dennis Fox, the DNR’s recruitment and retention coordinator, said the department will evaluate how things went, make appropriate changes, if necessary, and “we’ll try to make it better next year.”

For more information on the Archery in the Schools Program, visit www.michigan.gov/archery.

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