High school girls’ basketball players aren’t the only ones competing in a state tournament this weekend. Hundreds of young archers from across Iowa are also in the state’s capitol city for their annual state tourney. Ben Berka, the Iowa D.N.R.’s shooting sports coordinator, says it’s part of the National Archery in the Schools Program.
"It’s in over 5,000 schools nationwide and also in Canada and Australia," Berka says. "We’ve got over 120 schools here in Iowa doing this and the state championship event this weekend will be the culminating event here for Iowa shooters." The finals will bring about 550 top archers from 20 Iowa schools to Des Moines.
The program was started just seven years ago in Kentucky, reached Iowa in 2004 and is now in 46 states and three nations. Berka says it’s typically offered to students in grades four through 12. The archers will be shooting in a standardized international target archery format with 300 possible points in individual and team competitions. Each participant will shoot 15 arrows from ten meters and 15 arrows from 15 meters.
The top archers in this weekend’s events will be eligible to qualify for the national championships to be held in May in Louisville, Kentucky. Berka says the archery program is growing in popularity in Iowa and many other places. Berka says the ultimate goal is to get more kids outdoors, involved and interested in hunting.
"Teachers tell us all the time that a lot of these kids that come out for this sport aren’t involved in other athletics and extracurricular activities," Berka says. "It’s something they can find and excel in." The archery state championships are underway at the Iowa Events Center at Veteran’s Auditorium as part of the Iowa Deer Classic.
Students taking part are from the following school districts: Adel-DeSoto-Minburn, Alburnett, Anamosa, Bellevue, Boone, North Iowa, Central City, Davenport, Diagonal, Earlham, Cardinal, Johnston, Lake Mills, Central Decatur, Mount Vernon, North Mahaska, Spencer and Waterloo.
For more information on the program, go to the the D.N.R.’s shooting page on its website.