Young Archers Target Growing Sport

Posted on April 21, 2014 by Idida Briones

By: Roger Showley 6:01 P.M.APRIL 19, 2014

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The south lawn at the Olympic Training Center in eastern Chula Vista wasn’t full of Easter eggs Saturday but of Legolas, Katniss Everdeen and Green Arrow wannabes, as about 75 middle school and high school archers faced off at a daylong tournament, heading toward a Southern California championship in Long Beach next month.

Organized by Olympic Archery in the Schools, the San Diego League event featured 38 targets, set 9 meters away from shooters in the lower grades and 18 meters for the high schoolers.

Dressed in T-shirts and jeans — no Robin Hoods in sight — and cheered on by their families in lawn chairs, the competitors took turns shooting three arrows in each round. They aimed at the 10-point bull’s eye with their wood and plastic bows, some outfitted with sights and stabilizer bars.

As their turns arrived, their hearts raced typically to 180 beats per minute, the tension increased by the need to remain calm, out shoot their rivals and find some way to compensate for a slight wind blowing from the west.

Keaton Chia, the program supervisor for the Easton Sports Development Foundation and the Olympic Archery in Schools program, rules on a shot by using a magnifying glass. — John Gibbins

Xander Ching, 11, a sixth grader at High Tech Middle in Chula Vista, was one of the youngest and shortest archers — but he consistently shot 9s and 10s, besting most of his taller and older rivals. He placed third in the final round.

“I get to hang out with a lot of friends, go to really cool championships and meet new people everyday,” he said in between “ends” or turns at the target.

He’s tried other sports but discovered his natural talent when his sister, Sabelle Garcia, 14, a freshman at High Tech High, also took up the sport and convinced him to try it out. She also competed Saturday.

“This is a sport where you don’t have to be tall or stronger or anything,” Xander said, adding that concentration on the target helps him focus at school.

“It’s better than playing video games all day,” his father Baron Ching said.

Keaton Chia, the program’s San Diego-based national supervisor, said interest in the sport has spiked up with the help of blockbuster movies featuring archers in “The Hunger Games,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Avengers” and “Brave.”

“Everyone wants to get into the sport after ‘The Hunger Games,’” Chia said.

Angelica Marasigan, 17, a junior at John Muir, the K-12 magnet school in Clairemont, said her science teacher, Vincent Stevens, recruited her to join the team when it first started last year. Her only other sport was Polynesian dancing.

“I love archery because you’re not going against anyone else (physically) — it’s an individual sport,” she said.

Looking ahead, she hopes to win an archery scholarship and major in biology at Columbia University.

Archery programs include both indoor and outdoor target practice and teams often have to improvise to set up the field, while observing strict safety rules.

La Jolla High School physics teacher Martin Teachworth said the neighborhood wouldn’t tolerate an outdoor target field, so he commandeered the cafeteria after hours and attracted 75 students at the first tryouts, curtain hung around the room to catch errant arrows.

“It’s such a nice, niche sport,” Teachworth said.

Although you only need a bow and arrows, the cost to outfit each student can run $200 or more; Olympic-level bows can cost more than $3,000 and the arrows, $50 each. But luckily, many schools receive initial funding from the Van Nuys-based Easton Sports Development Foundation, which also is building an indoor facility at the Olympic Training Center, as well as others around the country. Founder Jim Easton’s father started a sports equipment company in 1922.

“Jim Easton’s mission is getting the word out there,” said Kathy White, Easton’s executive assistant.