After seven years of steady growth, the field in West Virginia's Archery in the Schools State Tournament will shrink just a bit. Students are now required to qualify for the event in "virtual tournaments" held before Feb. 22.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's state scholastic archery tournament will be a little tougher to get into this year.After seven years of allowing anyone who wished to shoot to participate in the annual event, Division of Natural Resources officials have decided to require entrants to qualify in "virtual tournaments" held throughout the state.Krista Snodgrass, the DNR's Archery in the Schools coordinator, said agency officials had several reasons for making the change."Last year, we had 650 shooters at the state tournament," she said. "That's about as many as we could physically handle in a one-day event. Putting on the tournament requires a ton of volunteer help, and last year we were maxed out."The tournament grew dramatically during its first seven years. The first event, held in 2005 at the Capital High School gymnasium, drew just 180 shooters, but as more schools incorporated Archery in the Schools into their physical education classes, participation skyrocketed. This year, with pre-tournament qualifying in effect, Snodgrass expects about 500 shooters to earn entry into the March 23 competition."Another reason for requiring shooters to qualify is that we can avoid having the state tournament be an adverse experience," Snodgrass said. "In past years we've had situations in which relatively inexperienced shooters were paired against shooters who were really good, in a big facility in front of a big crowd."We don't want kids coming in and looking bad. Archery in the Schools is supposed to encourage students to make archery a lifelong pastime. We don't want them to get so discouraged they give up on it."
Snodgrass said the qualifying tournaments would also let students unable to afford the expense of traveling to Charleston experience competition closer to home."There are two ways to do these qualifying tournaments," she explained. "One is to hold head-to-head competitions with nearby schools. Students who participate in those tournaments will get to feel what it's like to compete against shooters from other schools."The other way to qualify is to conduct an in-school competition. As many kids who wanted to would be able to participate, and the school's principal would be required to verify the scores."For either the head-to-head or the in-school qualifiers, the scores would have to be posted to the National Archery in the Schools Program website by Feb. 22. We'll look at those scores, and will take teams from the top eight schools in each of the three divisions - elementary, middle and high school - as well as the top 10 individual males and top 10 individual females in each division."In the past, teams had been limited to 12 members. Snodgrass said teams that qualify for this year's tournament would be able to bring up to 16 shooters.Privately schooled and home-schooled students can also qualify for the tournament, but Snodgrass said their qualifying scores must be approved by a certified Archery in the Schools instructor. The bottom line, she said, is qualifying should make the state tourney a stronger event overall."This way, we'll have the best teams and the best shooters in the state competing against one another. We might have a smaller field, but it will definitely be a deeper one."Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.