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Alaska dips into NASP Nationals in Louisville, Ky.

Posted: May 12, 2011 - 9:19pm

An Alaskan contingent of archers is in Louisville, Ky., today and tomorrow to represent its state on the national stage in the National Archery in the Schools Program’s annual nationwide competition.

About 600 students statewide competed this spring for the right to make it the 2011 NASP Nationals, and the Southeast Island School District placed first as a team in each division: elementary, middle and high schools.

“This will be our first year sending a team,” SISD archery coach James Stevens said. “We’ve sent individuals before, but (we are) the first team from Alaska to represent our state.”

The SISD also had five individual performers take their respective divisions. Thorne Bay’s John Searle and Megan Cook won the two high school divisions with scores of 282 and 260, respectively, Taylee Nyquest, also from Thorne Bay, won the middle school female division with a score of 284, and another Thorne Bay student, Chris Pyle, won the elementary school male division with a score of 258. Naukati’s Emma Hammond won the elementary school female division.

A perfect score is 300.

Because of Alaska’s geographical size and cost of travel, Stevens said it’s difficult to get all the different school districts together at once to compete in an on-site state tournament like other states have. So the SISD shot in Thorne Bay and submitted the results via the Internet.

“We have virtual tournaments or satellite tournaments. We shoot at our own school and the whole thing is based on the honor system,” Stevens said. “Some states down south do it and some don’t; it just depends.”

Stevens said the national tournament will feature competitors from all over North America.

“There will probably be more than 7,000 kids there representing all 50 states, and probably some from Canada,” he said.

One member of the team is Thunder Mountain sophomore Darian Gray, who placed fourth overall in the girls’ high school division. She said she’s dedicated to performing well at the highest level.

“I’ve been setting up a target in my backyard every day and practicing for at least an hour until my fingers go numb,” she said. “I’ve only been shooting for about a year.”

So what was it about archery that interested Gray?

“My favorite stories were mostly about archers, like Robin Hood,” she said. “I just decided to try it out one day and I really like to do it now.”

Stevens said he expected about 25 kids to make the trip as part of the group, and that kind of travel can be expensive. Fortunately, the team has gotten a little financial help as a reward for its success.

“We were lucky because our school district actually put some money aside. We don’t fund all of our travel, but (the school district) does fund travel to state or national events,” Stevens said. “So you have to be performing well in something to have part of your way paid.”

While this is the first year the state will send a full team, Stevens said there’s a reason for that. He said he has great confidence in this group’s capabilities.

“Mainly, it’s come down to cost, but I want to place reasonably well if we’re going to take a team down there. I don’t want to place last in the nation,” he said. “The score we shot this year (at state) would have put us at about 40th in the nation out of 104 (teams) last year. I’m hoping to be in the top 10 in the nation this year.”

Gray said if she and her teammates work hard enough in preparation, there is a real chance at success this weekend.

“We’re pretty confident we’ll do well,” she said. “But once we get down there it will depend on how much we practiced and how well we think we can do.”

The 2011 NASP Nationals take place today and tomorrow at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky.

The NASP is a joint venture between state departments of Education and Wildlife, and several archery equipment manufacturers and organizations are also partners. The program promotes student education, physical education and participation in the sport of archery. The program’s focus is to provide international style target archery training in physical education classes.

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