10 Mar Virtual archery state championships host 96 student teams
Social-distancing requirements may have prevented the typical scene at Bank OZK Arena in Hot Springs for this year’s Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program State Championships, but schools from across the state are still competing to see who is the best at Olympic-style archery this week.
Curtis Gray, ANASP coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said all competitions were moved to a virtual format this year to prevent the typical crowds of up to 16,000 at one location for the state championships.
“We just couldn’t organize any sort of gathering like that in good conscience,” Gray said. “But we still wanted to give all of our archers an opportunity to compete and continue enjoying their sport.”
Instead, archers at each school are competing at their own facilities with at least two coaches or administrators serving as scoring judges. Instead of the meet taking place all in one or two days, teams will have four days to shoot and submit their scores.
“With each school district going by different formats for how many people can be in a group at once and which days they host virtual learning, we wanted to make sure everyone had enough time to compete,” Gray said.
The format went well during the regional shoots, which took place from Feb. 8-24, despite weather-related setbacks.
“Major snowstorms shut everything down right in the middle of the regional shooting period,” he said. “We extended the deadlines for those scores for two weeks because of the weather, but we anticipate having all of the state championship numbers in by the March 4 deadline.”
Gray says participation in regional shoots saw a substantial drop from last year, but he’s still pleased by the turnout.
“With COVID and the switch to a virtual format, I was worried we wouldn’t have many teams for this year’s competition, but we had more than 3,000 kids shoot and turn in scores,” Gray said. “With all the changes to student’s schedules and ability to gather for practice, we’ve weathered the storm much better than we anticipated, and I hope we’ll have even more participation next year as we see more stability in school schedules.”
Concerns for spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 shuttered last year’s Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program’s events, as well as this year’s regional ANASP, meets, but Gray is hopeful that next year will be different.
“That’s all we can do right now is hope that this is behind us when next year’s tournaments come around,” Gray said. “Until then, I encourage everyone to keep practicing and enjoying archery. We have 3D courses available throughout the state to enjoy some open-air opportunities as well as all of the teachers still giving instruction through the hundreds of schools that participate in the program. Every situation is different, but the end goal is to help our youth build confidence in this great sport.”
Visit www.agfc.com/ANASP for more information on the Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program and this year’s competition.