April 22, 2010 in Washington Voices

Evergreen archery team wins first in state contest

By The Spokesman-Review
Courtesy of Mark Phillips photo

Mead’s Evergreen Elementary archery team took first place in a statewide archery competition last month. Courtesy of Mark Phillips
(Full-size photo)

Other competition results

Cody Sumner, an eighth-grader from Deer Park Middle School was named the top male archer in Washington

Deer Park Middle School placed first in its level

Several years ago, Mark Phillips, physical education teacher at Mead’s Evergreen Elementary school, discovered a unique way to get kids active. Think Robin Hood and William Tell. That’s right; Phillips introduced archery to his fifth- and sixth-grade students.

He’d heard about the National Archery in the Schools Program and was intrigued. “Archery is one of those things that every single kid can participate in,” said Phillips.

The equipment is standardized, which levels the playing field. Every child uses the exact same bow, arrow, target and shooting style. “That’s what I like about it,” Phillips continued. “It’s not about how much money you have or what kind of equipment you have.”

Students enthusiastically embraced the program and Phillips soon formed an after-school archery team. On March 20, the Evergreen Mustangs won first place in the elementary division in the statewide competition.

Evergreen wasn’t the only local school to place well. The top male archer in Washington was Cody Sumner, an eighth-grader from Deer Park Middle School. In addition, Deer Park Middle School placed first in its level.

“The program has grown exponentially across the state,” said Phillips.

For adults worried about safety, Phillips provides this information from NASP: “According to the National Safety Council, ping-pong is the only ball sport more accident-free than archery. There has never been an archery accident in the school archery program.”

Students use compound bows with aluminum field tip arrows. They aim their arrows at bulls-eye targets placed at distances of 10 or 15 meters. “We shoot indoors,” said Phillips. A large 10-foot by 30-foot shooting curtain contains any stray arrows.

It may be a required P.E. class, but the kids say it’s just plain fun. Phillips has had to turn away students who wanted to participate in the after-school team because regulations limit the size of the team.

Twelve-year-old Morgan Konynenbelt enjoys the sport, although she admitted to being nervous at the state competition. “I was worried that I’d shoot the floor or something.” She didn’t need to worry; Konynenbelt took second place in the elementary girls division.

Teammate Alex Wardian said archery is “one of my favorite things to do. I love shooting!” He finished fourth in his division at the state championship. And Wardian had bigger plans for his newly acquired skills. “Target practice will help me while I work on getting my hunting license,” he said. “I plan on doing some bow hunting with my dad and brother.”

Phillips said parental involvement has been a key to the success of the program. Wardian credited his parents for attending practices “even if I have them on Saturday.”

Konynenbelt’s family has embraced archery as well. Her mother Gwen Konynenbelt said, “Anything that gets the kids up and off the couch, we’re all for.” Because Morgan did so well in the program last year, her grandparents bought her a bow to practice with at home. “Now it’s something the whole family has gotten into,” said Gwen Konynenbelt. “We all go out and take turns.”

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