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Westminster adds state archery tournament to its quiver

More than 300 students traveled from all over the state of Maryland, and even parts of Virginia, on Saturday to compete in a state archery championship in Westminster.

More than 300 students traveled from all over Maryland and parts of Virginia on Saturday to compete in a state archery championship in Westminster.

The 2016 Maryland National Archery in the Schools Tournament was hosted at the Shipley Arena of the Carroll County Agriculture Center, bringing some of the state's best archers to the area to compete for an initiation to NASP's national tournament, which will be held in May in Louisville, Kentucky.

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Of the 365 children competing Saturday, almost 60 were from Carroll County, tournament director Lou Compton said.

In recent years, the state tournament has been held at Hagerstown Community College, but because the of growing popularity of the event, organizers decided to relocate the tournament to a larger venue, like Carroll's Ag Center, he said.

Out of the 108 schools involved in the National Archery in the Schools Program today, 20 joined within the past year, Compton said.

The program, he said, is the kind of activity that can appeal to all kinds of kids.

"This is not a very demanding sport, but it is a rewarding sport," he said, adding that it doesn't require competitive advantages like being the fastest or strongest in order to succeed. "All of a sudden, [the kids] have a different level of confidence they're bringing to school."

Students at the event compete both as teams and as individuals. Each year, Compton said, the state sends its top teams at the elementary, middle and high school levels to the national competition, as well as top 10 individual performers in each division.

For many kids, the benefit doesn't come in the day's results, but rather in being part of a team, said Tina Shupp, coach of North Carroll Community School's teams.

Although the teams are associated with the school, they also include students who are home-schooled.

"I like it because it has an individual capacity and also a team [component]," she said. "You don't have to be an athlete."

That's exactly what drew North Carroll Community School's Haley Wilson to the team, she said.

Wilson, 13, said she first picked up the bow and arrow at the age of 8.

"I wasn't good at any other sports," she said.

Teammate Victoria Prunier, 15, has had a similar experience. She taught herself to shoot when she was younger, she said, but joined the team after she learned about it.

"I like that it's not a competition with all the other people — it's more about yourself," she said.

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For parents, it's gratifying to see their children compete in an event like Saturday's, said Laurie DeZwart, whose son, Noah, made it to the national tournament last year.

Out of all the sports her kids have played, archery is her favorite, she said. The North Carroll Community School team gives her and her family the chance to meet and make friends with people they might otherwise never have the opportunity to meet, she said.

"This team, they watch out for each other; they help each other," Dezwart said. "It's like no other."

Theresa Saunders, mother of two members of the North Carroll Community School team, agreed. The sport has given her kids a chance to learn lessons valuable to their life for years to come, even when they don't win, she said.

"It's a frustrating sport for them, but they have to realize that each time you shoot a different round, it's starting over," she said. "Sometimes that one bad arrow's not as bad as they think it is."

Top teams:

High school: Tuscarora High School

Middle school: Liberty Christian School

Elementary school: Hancock Elementary School

410-857-3315

Twitter.com/heatherleighnor

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