Alderson Archers celebrate second place finish in national tournament with community parade

By Jeffrey Kanode, RealWV

Bruce Springsteen once wrote:

Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by

Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eyes.

Glory days, glory days.

There are Alderson residents now in their seventies and eighties who remember when the town’s high school teams competed for state championships in football and basketball.  Those memories are decades old now, of course, with many years standing between the present and the days when Alderson had its own high school and the town loved and lauded its athletes.

However, the inevitable rush of time may not necessarily have confined Alderson’s athlete’s “glory days” to the singular realm of the past.  A group of youngsters from Alderson Elementary School just took second place in a national tournament, and now they are gearing up to compete for a world title

The Alderson Archers finished second in a field of one hundred-ninety nine other schools at the NASP Eastern National Tournament, in Kentucky.  In a few weeks, they will compete in the world tournament in Florida.  In the glow of one accomplishment, on the eve of another aspiration, earlier this week, Alderson celebrated the town’s team with a parade.

Alderson mayor Travis Copenhaver noted that the Alderson Archers bring huge positivity to both the students involved, and to the community. “When I’ve been to watch the kids practice, it’s amazing to see their teamwork and desire to see each other truly be the best. “Win or lose, this program is a win for Alderson and our kids,” he said. 

“The town rallies behind this group of kids. They are ‘Alderson Proud’ of them, that’s for sure,” said Andrea Sloan, a teacher at Alderson Elementary, and one of the ardent supporters of the Archers.  “It pushes kids to do better and be better. Kids want to be a part of this group,” 

Fellow Alderson Elementary teacher Jason Ward, who also serves as a coach for the team, shared Sloan’s assessment of what the program means for the students, and the town. He pointed out that the school has seen a marked increase in the GPA of the archery team members, coupled with a sharp decrease in their absenteeism. He said that three years ago, the program started with the kids building their own bow racks and quivers.  Now, they are competing at the highest level both nationally and internationally. 

“To be where these kids are today is just a tribute to the community of Alderson supporting us, and these kids working hard every day.  We’ve learned so much. We’ve had a great time with them. It’s been a great time with them. It’s been a great journey,” Ward noted.  

Coach Matt Tabor echoed Ward’s sentiments. “This is the only sport Alderson has left,” he began.  “They [the archers] keep us coaches young, so maybe they keep some of the town young too, and wanting to stay involved. This program has really brought our community together, through fundraisers, through the parade. The town has banded together, and they have had our backs every step of the way. We wanted to go and do this for Alderson as much as we wanted to do it for us.”

What do the young archers themselves say about their archery program, the success they have achieved, and what this experience means to them?

“Our teammates are like family to us.  We’ve been together for two years, and we’ve been shooting together,” said fifth grader Braylyn Parker.

Her classmate, Klay Dolin agreed, echoing that the team has grown to be a family. When The Real WV asked Klay what the archery program has taught him, he smiled and replied, “How to shoot.” His coaches and teammates laughed.

Regan Honaker and Willa Crane are fourth graders. The coaches have  identified them as leaders for next year’s team.  

Regan, the highest-shooting fourth grader this season, explained that shooting will be key for success in the upcoming world tournament.    “I hope to shoot my best. I hope my teammates shoot their best, too,” she commented.  Regan credits her dad for helping her to shoot so well. 

Willa Crane focused on what going to the tournament means for her team of friends, and what it will take to continue their winning ways. “It means a lot to be on the team, for us to be going together to the tournaments. We have to do the steps, the fundamentals,” she said.

William Lightner emphasized that his role as an Alderson Archer has taught him the importance of team work, and how to be a good teammate. When the Real WV asked him to define what being a good teammate means, he answered: “Don’t argue. Don’t push. Don’t fight.” William concluded, “We have a lot of fun.  Sometimes after tournaments, we get to eat!”

Coach Darrell Pilson reflected on both the past—what the children have learned and what they have accomplished– and what more they may achieve, together, in the future. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids to grow. We have a fantastic time with them.  They’ve learned a lot. We’ve all learned a lot. We just continue the journey.”

Jason Ward concurred. “Their journey isn’t over,” he said with a smile. 

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