By Stephen Baldwin, RealWV
Last year, a group of Alderson Elementary staff including Jason Ward, Andrea Edge, Alicia Utterback, Matthew Tabor, and Greg Eary began an archery team at Alderson Elementary. “We started with a bare bones program,” remembers Ward. “We only had three targets, a couple of bows, and a couple of arrows.”
Now in their second year, with significant support from the school system and the community (combined with lots of hard work), they are headed to the state tournament next weekend. It will be held at the Charleston Civic Center on March 25.
“We really appreciate all the community has done supporting us and our program to get us there,” says Andrea Edge. Raffles and fundraisers allowed them to purchase much of their equipment which they use for the program.
“We’re expecting to do well,” comments Ward. “We’re going to try and win it.”
The Competition Team
The student competition team is comprised of 5th grade students Elijah White, Kinley Honaker, Braxtyan Smith, Tylor Parker, and Vitale DeRouen. They practice after school each afternoon.
“It’s a privilege for them to be on the team,” explains Ward. In other words, they have to have all their homework done, keep their grades up, behave, and perform well to be on the team.
Kinley Honaker takes pleasure in the opportunity given to her by the program. “My whole family is into shooting,” she says. “I’ve been shooting since I was 5, but I’ve learned so many new things from this program already.”
Elijah White, or Eli as his friends call him, savors the competition. When asked how he thinks it will go on Saturday, he responds, “It’s going to be good.”
While Alderson won their last tournament in Summers County to qualify for the state tournament, they’ve lost to neighboring Peterstown Elementary twice. Eli hasn’t forgotten that, saying, “I’m tired of losing to them. So what better place to beat them than at states?”
Physical Education Classes
Alderson not only has a competition team, but they teach younger students how to safely shoot during physical education classes as well. “It’s great having the older kids on the team helping teach the younger kids,” says Edge. “We emphasize teamwork. They’re not just competing for themselves; they’re doing it for the town and the school and for each other.”
One of the most rewarding parts for the teachers has been seeing the students encourage each other. “They not only support one another in practice and at competitions, but they support the students from other teams. When their opponent makes a good shot, they tell them it was a good shot. We like it like that.”
Greg Eary, a bus driver for Greenbrier County Schools, received training from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources to help begin the program. It was a priority for him because, “I’m trying to get the kids off video games. This is a skill they can use for life.”
Jessica Davis is a mom whose son is learning archery through the class. She says it’s a great opportunity. “He’s always shown interest in shooting, but this has allowed him to learn the skills to do it. It’s been really good for a lot of the kids in our community.”
As they wrap up practice on Thursday, Coach Ward encourages them. They listen to every word, engaged with the program, unmoved by the prospect of competing on the state’s biggest stage.
“I have a good feeling about it,” Eli says with a half-smile.