By John KIlgore
Phoenix Outdoors Columnist
Tayla Jackson, a sophomore at Muskogee High School, has taken aim at a target — literally and figuratively.
She wants to add a chapter of the Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools program to the MHS club listings or as a unit in physical education curricular offerings. Jackson approached her sophomore counselor, Sheril Morgan, saying that when she attended Benjamin Franklin Science Academy, she became an eager learner in the sport.
“I wondered if there was an elective being offered for archery,” said Jackson. “One of my teachers at BFSA in the seventh grade taught archery to some of the classes. I enjoyed shooting at the target.”
Archery, an Olympic sport, is also offered at Alice Robertson Junior High.
“In May, five or six schools here in Muskogee are going to try and have an inter-city tournament to compete against each other,” stated Lori Martin, a teacher and sponsor of the sport at AR, which competed recently in Tulsa.
My wife, Jennifer, is a librarian at Muskogee High. She told me she has heard more talk among girls who have taken up the sport after the release of the book and subsequent movie “The Hunger Games.” USA Archery's youth divisions, especially the 15-17 year-old age group, are now its largest.
The Oklahoma National Archery in the Schools program is connected with the Wildlife Department. Justin Marschall is its program director. Birthed in 2004 with eight schools, the highest concentration of growth is in the northeastern part of the state.
“It has really taken off from there,” said Marschall. “The Oklahoma School for the Deaf, located in Sulphur, has students that participate in the program. We also have a young lady in a wheelchair that is really quite proficient.”
In the recent state shoot, Keys FFA was 10th in the high school team standings among area schools and Porum was 18th. Chickasha was champion in the 30-team standings. Drake Pound of Porum was ninth in high school boys individual results, Amy Ward of Keys the highest girls finisher at the high school level in 15th. In elementary boys, Hal Thompson of Tahlequah was fourth.
Teachers interested can contact Marschall at (405) 522-1857 or look in the education section of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife’s website, www.wildlifedepartment.com. They must attend a free one-day workshop conducted by OKNASP certified instructors. Topics covered include range setup, running a safe archery range, building student skills, equipment maintenance and more.
Designed for kids in grades 4-12, the curriculum covers archery history, safety, techniques, equipment, mental concentration and self-improvement. Once a teacher has completed the training course, their school is eligible to purchase a kit including compound bows, aluminum arrows, target maps, a backstop net, armguards, repair kit and bow floor rack.
There’s plenty of competitive offerings for grownups, too. Dan Chaffin, another Muskogee schools employee, is a long-time competitive archer and gold medalist in this year’s Sooner State Senior Games and I don’t know of an individual who has given more of his time in promotion and education of archery to young people. Speaking of Chaffin, here’s wishing him a speedy recovery from a bout with pneumonia and the flu.
John Kilgore's outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. You may contact him with news or other information at (918) 348-9431 or at email@example.com.