Three teams tied to Killeen ISD schools competed this week among more than 3,000 students statewide in the 17th annual National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament at the Bell County Expo Center.
For the second year, the Harker Heights High School Junior ROTC fielded a team. They participated in a Wednesday flight.
A team from Nolanville Elementary School competed later in the day Wednesday and a Reeces Creek Elementary team participated Thursday.
Sixteen Harker Heights High School archery team members took part in the six competition rounds.
Senior Floyd Baldon was excited to be back at the state event.
“It’s been tremendous growth,” he said, noting that the team has grown in popularity in three years of existence and individuals have improved their scores.
“Some who were having difficulty early, improved and achieved their personal best,” he said.
“It’s very fun,” said Baldon. “It’s a big mental sport. It challenges you. The big challenge is to stay consistent.”
Following an unscored practice round, each participant gets three chances shooting five arrows at 10 meters and at 15 meters.
Experienced archers learn to make small adjustments to improve their shooting and work to perform consistently every round.
Junior Ashley Jackowski, also shooting at state for the second year, said the close-knit team practices before and after school to improve and goes to competition at least once a month.
“You learn to focus more, in archery and in other activities,” she said. “We work as a team and as individuals.”
Top teams and top individual shooters in various age ranges advance to the national tournament.
Jackowski said she learned a lot from JROTC leadership students a year ago and now is among the team leaders.
Harker Heights JROTC instructor retired 1st Sgt. Joe Flores said his team works diligently to be competitive at a high level.
“The biggest part I see is self-awareness,” said Flores. “They do a lot of self-reflection and make corrections. I’ve been very pleased with that.”
The team is led by students like Baldon and Jackowski who hold leadership positions on the team.
“It’s just another avenue for our kids to excel,” Flores said. “It helps with focus and teamwork. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest. You just have to learn to focus, use fine motor skills and practice.”
Posted scores show Harker Heights finished 15th among 48 high school teams with 3,100 points.
In the elementary division, Nolanville finished ninth with 2,742 points and Reeces Creek finished 15th with 2,484 points among 48 elementary teams.
Nolanville Elementary School is a longtime archery tournament participant now in its 12th year. Reeces Creek competed for its second time.
Reeces Creek coaches Travis Knight and Susie Douglas praised their students for their hard work and strong improvement.
“We’ve learned a lot,” said Douglas following the team’s performance Thursday.
“They’ve done a great job. Scores improved and they’re having fun.”
Knight said students learn self-discipline and patience in a sport that requires continual adjustments and re-focusing.
Fifth-grader Brooke Harley said she was excited about scoring some bullseyes and shot 10 arrows in the inner yellow circle.
“I like it because it makes me stronger,” she said of learning archery. “We get to go places and compete together.”
During competition, Harley said she stays focused on taking careful aim and tells herself to get a 9 or a 10.
“It was cool,” said fifth-grader Braylon Norman. “It’s fun to see friends and to try to get a 10.”
He said that archery is challenging because the smallest adjustments make a big difference in shooting and consistency is so important.