Two Worthington Schools archery teams are aiming high for success at a national championship in Kentucky after winning a state tournament last month.
The teams are part of a longstanding program at Bluffsview Elementary School.
Bluffsview has two archery teams: one composed of fourth- and fifth-graders and another for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. The team for the older students includes sixth-graders from Bluffsview and seventh- and eighth-graders from Phoenix Middle School. Each team has 24 students.
Both teams practice together about once a week, said coach Ben Wilson, a physical-education teacher at Bluffsview, 7111 Linworth Road, Columbus.
The teams' practices operate on a whistle system to signal commands. Two whistles tell the archers to ready their bows, one whistle tells them to shoot and three whistles tell them to retrieve their arrows.
The students practice with targets, starting with a practice round at 10 meters away. Wilson then instructs the students to do three scoring rounds at 10 meters. The students repeat this process at 15 meters.
A perfect archery score is 300, Wilson said, and he has several students who can shoot close to that score.
"It's really amazing," he said. "Their skill level is quite impressive."
Wilson said Bluffsview got involved in archery through Ohio's National Archery in the Schools Program -- NASP, for short -- which is sponsored by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife. The program is designed to teach archery to elementary, middle and high school students through a two-week unit in gym class.
After the success of the Bluffsview and Phoenix program, Wilson said, he has helped other schools in the district get the gym-unit program and start their own archery teams.
Granby and Worthington Park elementary schools have archery teams, he said.
Liberty, Slate Hill, Wilson Hill and Worthington Hills teach only the gym unit and do not have teams, Wilson said.
McCord Middle School has an archery program, and the high schools do not have teams, he said.
Bluffsview started competing in NASP tournaments about nine years ago after Wilson became certified to coach the teams. He was able to get grants for equipment for the students from the Worthington Education Foundation, ODNR and Bluffsview's parent-teacher organization.
Wilson said the program has been successful thus far, with two state championship wins, this year and in 2013. This year and 2013 are the only years the teams have advanced to a national tournament, he said.
This year, the teams advanced to the NASP Eastern Nationals tournament next month by winning the Ohio NASP Championship on March 17, he said.
"This has been amazing for our school community," he said. "You don't have to be athletic to be good at it."
The students involved in the program said they enjoy archery for different reasons.
Allonah Mahoney, a 10-year-old fifth-grader at Bluffsview, said she has been participating in archery since she was 5 years old, and she joined the Bluffsview team in third grade. She said she enjoys archery because of the precision that is involved.
"I look at it as an outdoor sport and I enjoy being outdoors," she said.
Allonah's personal best score is 285, she said, and she enjoys competing.
"You can shoot with someone from all around," she said.
Brooks Tweedle, an 11-year-old fifth-grader from Bluffsview, said he became interested in archery after watching "Robin Hood."
"I always wanted to be an archer since then," he said.
Brooks' personal best score is 266, he said. He enjoys being on the team for its social aspect and has enjoyed getting to know Wilson, he said.
Keaton Clark, a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Bluffsview, said he became interested in archery during a third-grade gym class.
"I had heard from the fifth- and sixth-graders that it was a fun thing to do," he said.
Keaton said he enjoys archery because it is different from other sports and it requires a high level of precision.
"You have to focus because you're not constantly moving," he said.
Keaton said the archery team has helped him make new friends, and he enjoys working on "that higher level" of shooting with Wilson.
"It's a really cool sport to do," he said. "If you have the option, it's a really wise path to follow."
The Bluffsview and Phoenix teams will compete at the NASP Eastern Nationals tournament May 10 in Louisville, Kentucky.