When the Woodford County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation donated $3,500 to the Metamora Township High School school archery team last December, it did more than simply furnish equipment; it made the team self-sufficient.
“We are just so thankful to the NWTF. They made it possible for the team to have new equipment,” said MTHS coach Jennifer Hayes. “In the course of my tenure, they’ve donated $4,500, and they’ve made us self-sustaining program.”
Known as the Sharp Spurs, the Woodford County NWTF garnered the donation from a number of events and funds from the NWTF superfund.
“We had several fundraisers, one at the Woodford County duck blind drawing, and one at the Deer and Turkey Classic,” Sharp Spurs President Al Helton said. “We also filled out applications on behalf of the school to get in on the NWTF superfund.”
The money was donated last fall, and MTHS purchased 24 red and black Genesis compound bows; a standard for the National Archery in the Schools Program. The rest of the money was used to buy an Apperson Advantage scorecard reader.
“The Genesis bows are the only bows allowed by the NASP, and the kids can’t outgrow them,” Hayes said. “The draw length is variable and they all have a 20-pound draw.”
As do all of the NASP participant schools. To comply with NASP regulations, all students shoot Easton Genesis long aluminum arrows with 3-inch plastic veins, to ensure a fair shooting range.
The Apperson scorecard reader is one of few among Illinois high schools, and allows for instant reading and uploading of archery scores. Prior to its purchase, Hayes borrowed an Apperson from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Springfield office.
“It made our tournaments possible. Now, we can collaborate with other archery teams, and that’s been the goal,” she said.
Hayes said MTHS often borrows target bails from Peoria District 150. Purchasing the Apperson has given the team the opportunity to give back, by loaning it to the Richwood’s Archery team, as well as other schools.
Hayes began assisting the archer team under coach Carla Bartman, a physical education teacher who retired in 2014. “When she retired, I did what I could to keep it going,” Hayes said. “I didn’t expect it to grow to this size, and it keeps growing.”
There could be a reason for an increased interest in archery. When “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” premiered in 2013, USA Archery reported a 121 percent increase in youth memberships.
“USA Archery released membership statistics proving that archery interest has continued to increase dramatically since the (movie) premier,” wrote the organization in a November, 2014 press release. “In the past twelve months especially, we’ve seen huge increases in female and youth participation, and we’re excited to see that trend continue.”
Currently, the archery team is made up of 32 students, split into two practice squads based on tournament scores, previous practice performance and general attitude. Veterans are usually placed on the A-team and the B-team hosts the newer archers.
Students set up the shooting field in Garber Gymnasium for tournaments and practices, using an 80 cm., 10-ring target, and shoot from 10 and 15 meters.
“They want more practices, and, if we could, we would,” Hayes said. “Practice is at 7 a.m., and the kids always show up early, they love it.”
MTHS also welcomes any district student to join in on practices, to learn from the older students and decide if archery is a sport they enjoy.
“Kids from Riverview Grade School in Spring Bay participate, Metamora Grade School,” she said. “We also have kids from St. Mary’s. They are always welcome. The older archers help the younger ones.”
Recent successes have proven the skill level of a number of MTHS students. In 2016 Bradley Spradlen competed in the NASP Nationals in Lexington, Ky., and had “a very respectable showing.”
“I have a young lady, Margaret Noe, who is really fighting to get to the nationals,” Hayes said. “The top 10 teams and the top 10 individual archers in the state get to go.”
Helton and the Sharp Spurs wish her luck, and are happy to have the opportunity to help the MTHS archery team. The Woodford County NWTF has also raised funds for wildlife conservation, firearms and archery equipment, and has provided the county with a seed cultivator, for use on loan.
Sharp Spurs benefit
The Sharp Spurs are hosting a banquet Feb. 24 at the St. Mary of Lourdes Parish Hall on Lourdes Road. A single ticket is $55 and couples cost $70. Dinner will be chicken or pork, and some of the high school archers have volunteered to help.
“It’s all charitable,” Helton said. “It goes to improve habitats and promote youth hunting in Illinois.”
For banquet tickets contact Chuck Koch at (309) 678-5661, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For NASP tournament information, visit www.nasptournaments.org.
— MTHS archery teams is right on target —