Along a back wall in the Kentucky Exposition Center’s spacious south wing, 231 archery targets are lined up end to end. Competitors are lined up, too, aiming for the bull’s-eye and striving for a perfect 300 score.
More than 14,000 young people from across the U.S. are in Louisville this weekend to show off their archery skills at the National Archery in the Schools Program competition.
The participants are in grades 4-12, and they’re vying for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships.
“This year marks the largest enrollment we’ve had, and the largest archery tournament in the history of the world,” says Tommy Floyd. The retired Madison County, Kentucky, Schools Superintendent is the general manager of the program, which began in the commonwealth 15 years ago.
“I think that archery appeals to people because it lets you become successful fairly rapidly,” he says. “We have a curriculum of how we shoot the bow, and then the rest of it is really how much you want to practice.”
This year, there are competitors from 41 states and a contingent from Canada. Coach Alan Benoist is back for the third year with his team from Cheyenne Eagle Butte Upper Elementary School in South Dakota.
“Two days — took us two days in the bus,” says Benoist. “Left Wednesday about 6 a.m. Mountain Time.”
Benoist says his archery program has grown steadily after a humble beginning several years ago.
“Now, you know, you can’t keep kids not wanting to shoot,” he says.
Ten-year-old Eagle Butte team member Quinn is in her second year of archery. She was introduced to the sport by a cousin and says she wishes she could do it exclusively.
“My mom makes me do basketball (too),” says Quinn.
The National Archery in the Schools Program competition includes team and individual events. It continues through Saturday at the Kentucky Expo Center.