Schroon Lake students Shannon Garland, Sam Foote, Dawson DeZalia, Derek DeZalia and Megan Hall have distinguished themselves as archers. Competing in the National Archery in Schools Program, Garland and Hall, both juniors, each qualified for the national championship tournament in Louisville, Ky. From left are Garland, Foote, Dawson DeZalia, teacher Mike Sharp, Derek DeZalia and Hall.
Schroon Lake students aim to please. In fact, their aim is so good, a quintet is among the best in the state.
Shannon Garland, Sam Foote, Dawson DeZalia, Derek DeZalia and Megan Hall have distinguished themselves as archers.
Competing in the National Archery in Schools Program, Garland and Hall, both juniors, each qualified for the national championship tournament in Louisville, Ky. Hall finished third and Garland fifth in the New York State tournament. The top five archers in the state event qualified for nationals.
Foote, also a junior, missed qualifying for the national tourney by a single point and was 11th in the state. Derek DeZalia, a freshman, finished 20th of 556 competitors in the state tournament, while Dawson DeZalia was the top fourth grader in the event.
After competing a unit on archery in physical education class at Schroon Lake Central School, a group of students decided they wanted to pursue the sport further. Mike Sharp, a physical education teacher at Schroon Lake, agreed to mentor the students, who practiced at 7 a.m. starting in January as they readied for the state tourney.
“Archery is one of my passions,” Sharp said. “I encourage students to try. It’s a great sport — it’s an individual challenge. You’re always competing against yourself as well as your opponents.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” he continued. “They were very dedicated and it paid off. No one expected to have the kind of success we had.”
That surprise is the main reason Garland and Hall won’t compete at the national tournament.
“We didn’t plan on this,” Sharp explained. “There’s no money in our budget to send kids to Louisville. It’s too bad, but hopefully next year we can go.”
Sharp and Lee Silvernail, another Schroon Lake physical education teacher, are both certified by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to run archery programs. Every student in the grades 7-12 take archery in physical education, although Sharp hopes to soon expand the program to lower grades. All the school’s equipment — bows, arrows, targets — were purchased with a DEC grant.
“We’re seeing more interest in archery,” Sharp commented. “We just started an after-school program and I’m seeing some new faces. That’s cool. I think the success of Megan, Shannon, Sam, Derek and Dawson has helped generate some interest in school.”
Archery is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. Since December 2011, individual membership in USA Archery has jumped 25 percent, while the number of clubs has nearly doubled, to 540 from 279. Struggling to keep pace with the demand for instructors, the organization recently moved part of its certification course online to speed the process.
Much of that interest is traced to the youth book series and movie “The Hunger Games.” In “The Hunger Games” main character Katniss Everdeen, the 16-year-old bow-wielding heroine, is such a good shot that she hits squirrels in the eye.