March 4, 2020
Jim Harris Managing Editor Arkansas Wildlife Magazine
HOT SPRINGS – Thirty-six teams in each of three divisions – elementary school, middle school and senior – once again converge at Hot Springs’ Bank OZK Arena Friday and Saturday to determine individual and team champions in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament.
The elementary (fourth and fifth grades) and middle school (sixth through eighth grades) divisions compete on Friday beginning at 9 a.m., with the day expected to wrap up at 4:30 p.m. with trophy presentations. The seniors (ninth through 12th grades) begin with the first flight at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and trophies expected to be presented at about 2 p.m.
Individuals, both boys and girls, placing in the top five positions of the senior division will receive college scholarship money provided by the AGFC, starting with $2,500 for the top boys and girls finishers and incrementally decreasing $500 for each placing.
“We look at them separately,” Curtis Gray, coordinator of ANASP, said of the scholarships being presented to the top boys and girls finishers, even though the overall event is team-oriented. “It really drives that female component that we want to compete and participate in our program.”
Also, the fans of the 98 teams competing during the two days can help their program win cash: Admission is free with a canned food item. But fans don’t have to stop at one to get in – the team that brings in the most canned food items will win a cash prize from the AGFC, with each day being a separate competition for the payout.
“The AGFC commissioners have put up $100 apiece for the canned food prize,” Gray said. “The school that brings the most cans will win a prize on Friday and on Saturday. If people come who don’t have a specific team to root for, they can put their cans toward any school they choose if they don’t have an alliance.”
The canned items are part of a drive organized by Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry. The donated cans go to a local food bank, Gray said.
“We’ve been doing this since we started the program,” Gray said. “The group that gets the donated food, they say it’s their biggest donation of the year. Ronnie Ritter and Hunters Feeding the Hungry take care of the logistics. They’ve told me how many they feed out of that donation from the event and it’s unbelievable. I’m glad we can help them.”
Each flight takes about 50 minutes, with competitors shooting 15 arrows from 10 meters and 15 more from 15 meters, plus five warm-up shots from each distance. Archery targets have 10 rings, each designating a score with a bull’s-eye being 10 points. All archers use a Mathews Genesis bow and 1820 size aluminum Easton arrows.
Bank OZK Arena is opened from one end to the other to accommodate 106 shooting targets, plus an area on the west end to keep archers occupied when they’re not competing. ANASP will have 3D archery targets, an archery target trap-throwing machine, ping pong target shoot and a practice area, with plaques awarded to the top three shooters in the skills events. Also, the AGFC will provide music entertainment and prize giveaways each day.
“And most schools bring their mascots. It will be a very festive atmosphere,” Gray said. “Bank OZK is perfect for the event and centrally located for teams coming from all corners of the state. They have the most linear feet in the state, and we take all of it. That’s another reason we have to stay there, there is no place bigger.”
Familiar names such as Hill Farm Elementary out of Bryant are back to reclaim titles, but Gray expects that anything could happen either day. To read about qualifiers to the state tourney from regional competitions held last month, visit https://www.agfc.com/en/news/2020/02/12/high-scores-highlight-archery-regional-tournaments/. Also, the schedule for Friday and Saturday is available at www.agfc.com/anasp. The top two teams from each of 12 regions qualified for the state tournament, along with 12 at-large berths in each division.
“There are so many teams around the state that are really good,” Gray said. “To get first or second in any region, those were extremely high scores. You also have such different ages of kids. Some kids might not be that good in practice but will come in and light it up, while some are great in practice and reach the state and take a nosedive, there’s just no telling what might happen, so you can’t go on how the regional scores went.
“And we’ve had events where nobody falters and there has to be a shootoff. That’s five arrows from 15 and the whole arena is watching. That’s really something.”