Washington's archery team qualifies for state in its first season
The Washington High School archery team just finished its first season.
Yes, that’s right. Washington High School has an archery squad.
The school’s archery program became a reality this winter after John Seymour, the president of the Washington County Archers, spent nearly two years raising funds. He got a $1,250 grant from Whitetails Unlimited and a matching grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. The National Wild Turkey Foundation, Pheasants Forever, the Izaak Walton League and Washington County Archers groups chipped in over $500 apiece.
“We have an archery club, and we aim to get young kids interested in archery as young as we can,” Seymour said when asked what made him decide to start the school’s archery team. “Kids don’t get enough contact with nature, and I think that’s important.
“You don’t have to be a jock to do it,” Seymour added. “You don’t have to be a big athlete. Anyone can participate.”
The funds Seymour raised were used to purchase 11 bows, five dozen arrows, five targets and a backstop. There was no cost to the school. But when the season began, that wasn’t enough.
“Once we got the team, we were overwhelmed,” Seymour said. “We thought we’d have 10 or 12 kids. So I had to go back out and raise more funds, and we bought 10 more bows and more targets.”
Twenty students — 12 girls and eight boys — went out for the team.
“A lot of these kids never had a bow in their hand in their life,” Seymour said.
But they learned a lot as the season progressed, improving at each of the team’s four regular-season meets and culminating in a trip to the state tournament in Des Moines on Saturday, March 2.
“They were a good group of kids to work with,” head coach Jolleen Cerka said. “They all learned quite a bit and improved throughout the season. All of them got better as the year went along. I was pleased with the way they performed. At our last regular season meet they needed to reach a certain score to qualify for state, and they did that.”
Junior Ryan Waite was Washington’s top shooter at the state tournament, which was held inside the HyVee Hall in Des Moines. His score of 284 (out of a possible 300) points was good for 15th place out of 95 boys at the tournament.
Freshman Jade Wells led the Demon girls, and her score of 264 was good for 33rd out of 123 shooters.
“She had a score of 166 at her first meet,” said Seymour, who, along with Susan Foster, was an assistant coach for the team. “She improved at every tournament, and that’s what you’re looking for.”
Washington finished last out of the 13 teams at the state tournament, but just getting there in the program’s first season was an accomplishment itself.
“For our first year, I thought the kids did very well,” Cerka said. “Qualifying for state in the first year of competition and having a shooter in the top 15 represents the kids quite well.”
“The kids were outstanding,” Seymour added. “They were great representatives of Washington High School.”
Now Seymour hopes to expand the archery program to even younger students by next winter.
“Our next challenge is to get the middle school and elementary schools involved,” Seymour said. “I’m looking forward to working with the young kids.”