Young archers compete in state tournament at the DECC

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The National Archery in the Schools Program State Tournament is back at the DECC, with 1800 participants this year. 

“You can look at the faces of the parents, the kids. This is their sport,” said MN DNR Shooting Sports Coordinator Kraig Kiger. “This is what they’ve been practicing for all year, and now they get a chance to come and show what they can do.”

This weekend’s tournament includes kids from 4th grade through 12th. 

“Our family’s always done a lot of bow hunting and deer hunting,” said 16-year-old Randall Belanger. “So when we saw that there was a sport where we could, you know, shoot archery, we were like, Oh, we’ve got to do this. And we stuck with it ever since.”

11-year-old Timothy Ludwig is competing for the first time this year but has been shooting bows since the age of four. He likes the 3-D foam animal archery over the bullseye competition.

“You hunt animals, so you actually kind of get, like, real life hunting skills and just bullseye is you can just shoot and practice how close you can get to a good score,” Ludwig explained. 

The competition has both a team and an individual competition, with anyone welcome to participate in the sport. 

“It’s non-gender non-ability. Everybody can do it. I love it. I love that part about it,” said Archery Coach Gail Whitcomb. “The other part that is really cool is it’s like it teaches you life skills. Like if you are able to get through that pressure, that mental pressure, it’s going to be very beneficial for you in the long run for just in general different life situations.”

In archery, practice and skill are more important than getting the best equipment. 

“It levels the playing field for all schools. It doesn’t matter if you come from a big school, private school, a little school, rural school, inner city school, everybody should have the same equipment,” Whitcomb explained. “So you can’t purchase other balls and try to outdo your next neighboring school, we all shoot the same equipment.”