Olympic Dream Closer to Reality for Newberry Archery Complex


Olympic dream closer to reality for Newberry archery complex

By Morgan Watkins Staff writer

Published: Monday, December 3, 2012 at 5:35 p.m.

NEWBERRY — U.S. Rep.-elect Ted Yoho sent an arrow flying through an indoor range at the Easton Newberry Sports Complex, the point burying itself in a red circle on a target across the room.

A few shots later, Yoho’s arrow punctured the centermost circle of the target as a line of would-be archers, including Alachua County commissioners and U.S. Olympic Committee representatives, notched arrows onto bowstrings and took aim.

They were among a group of about 60 people who on Monday visited the Newberry facility for a luncheon welcoming three Olympics representatives to evaluate the complex as part of its archery program’s application to become a Community Olympic Development Program. If selected, the Newberry complex would be the 10th such program in the nation and the second devoted to archery.

The sole archery development program at the moment is the Springfield-Greene County Parks and Recreation program in Springfield, Mo.

Securing the designation would provide the complex with opportunities to garner support from Olympic sponsors and the chance to solidify its archery program’s reputation as a high-quality training outlet for budding athletes and Olympic athletes alike, said Doug Engh, outreach director for Easton Foundations.

Two of the three Olympic representatives planned to stay through today to discuss logistical issues such as contract negotiations, he said.

During the luncheon, Yoho told the group that earning Community Olympic Development Program status would have the biggest impact on local youth by offering them a place to learn archery and perhaps inspiring a few to aspire to compete at the Olympic level someday.

“And it would have a huge impact not just in the region, not just in the state, but I think in the country,” he said.

Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad emphasized the local support that bolsters the archery program, from the Alachua County School Board to the Gainesville Sports Commission.

“Community is what this archery program is all about,” he said.

Alicia McConnell, an Olympic representative who visited from Colorado Springs, Colo., to evaluate the program with colleagues Adam Andrasko and Bobbi Ullman, said a key goal of such site visits is to see firsthand the community support for potential development program facilities.

She said the Newberry complex likely will become an official part of the program during the first quarter of 2013. The designation provides a place for youth to be introduced to a sport like archery and, if they have the talent and motivation, the potential to become Olympic or Paralympic athletes, McConnell said.

McConnell told the luncheon crowd that the representatives love what they do because they get to work with programs like Newberry’s that aim to bring communities together.

“I think one day you will have an Olympic or Paralympic athlete come out of Newberry,” she said to applause.

The local archery program is completing its final development program requirements, but it already has gained the attention of Olympic athletes.

Robert Turner, head coach of the archery program, said the facility welcomed athletes competing with national teams from Canada, Chile, Saudi Arabia and other countries during the run-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Many England-bound athletes trained at the sports complex, and U.S. Olympic silver medalist Jake Kaminski might move to Newberry to train in archery there long term, Turner said. Throughout the year, 20,000 to 30,000 people visit the facility for archery alone, and about 200 people train for the sport there weekly.

“This place is recognized around the world as one of the best archery ranges in the world,” said Turner, who previously coached archery in Australia. “When I got here, I was blown away.”

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.