Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

April 29, 2014

Archers taking aim in Peterstown

PETERSTOWN — A very old sport has some very new participants in Monroe County.

Archery has taken hold at Peterstown Middle School, which is sending two full teams to the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) competition on May 8-10 in Louisville, Ky.

John Woodson, who recently retired after 31 years teaching in Monroe County schools, began the program a little more than three years ago.

“It just took off,” he said. “Kids just absolutely ate it up.”

Current head coach Barry Meadows, also a retiree, said the local after-school program grew from 16 in its first year to 32 last year and to 65 this year.

“We’re growing every year,” Meadows said.

This year, he has been able to organize an elementary team from grades 4-5 and a middle school unit from grades 6-8, and both qualified for the nationals. Each team includes at least 12 children with a minimum of four girls and four boys.

“You can shoot up to 24, but they only take the top 12 scores,” Meadows said.

In the West Virginia state tournament on March 29, three Peterstown fifth-grade girls finished in the top 10 in the elementary school division — Sydney Phipps (fourth) and Emily Hodges and Jaden Taylor (tied for sixth).

In the middle school division, Megan Miller finished fifth in the state.

Taylor, who is in her first year shooting with the bow, said that to have her team qualify for the national meet was “the most awesome feeling ever.”

The elementary team finished third on the state level. Meadows said, “They brought home the first state trophy to Monroe County for archery that’s ever been brought home.”

Taylor said that she, Hodges and Phipps spread the word about the archery team around school.

“I talk about it a lot. I love it,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

Meadows is working on building a full team at the county’s only public high school, James Monroe. Two freshmen from the school, Todd Craghead and Colton Bradley, qualified and competed in the state tournament as individuals.

The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) oversees the overall program.

Archery is taught in the middle school physical education classes, said Woodson, who is Meadows’ assistant coach. “You’ve got to have a class before you can shoot on a team,” Woodson said.

The program has “close to 20 bows” that belong to the school, he said, though many students have bought their own.

Students don’t have to be gifted athletes to be good archers, the coaches said.

“That’s the reason the DNR set the program up. It’s for anybody. It’s a life sport,” Meadows said.

“Out of my 65 kids, there may be 15 of them that play sports, school sports or Little League. The rest of them don’t play any sports, so this gives them something to do, something that they feel like individually they can compete in.”

“These bows range from 10 pounds to 20 pounds. There’s no limit on draw length, it goes up to 30 inches, so anybody from a third grader to my age can shoot these bows. They’re made for anybody to shoot.”

Everyone in the national program uses the same kind of bow, shooting standardized 30-inch aluminum arrows.

The national competition at the Kentucky Exposition Center will include “over 10,000” students, Woodson said. That would set a Guinness world record, he said.

Meadows said that some of the children’s parents bow-hunt, but he added, “This is not to teach hunting, this is to teach a kid a lifetime sport.”

He said, “The first thing is safety. There’s never been an injury ever since this program started in Kentucky. The second (priority) is to try to teach the kids the proper way to shoot.”

Woodson said the program does not get any county school money. “It’s all fundraising,” he said. “We’re parent-driven.”

Meadows said, “Since this is solely funded by donations, the community, and even outside our community ... we’re very appreciative of everything that they give us.”

He said donations have come from an area stretching from Athens to Pembroke, Va.

“This is all volunteer,” Meadows said. “I don’t get paid anything for this, and I probably put in more time ... into this than I did in softball (coaching), or back years ago when I coached baseball.”

He recalled a boy who came out for the team last year. “The first time that he hit one into the yellow of the target, he turned around with the biggest smile on his face, and I said, that just made my day, right there,” he said.

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com

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