MINOT — The parking lot was filled with cars. The hallways were packed with moms and dads, relatives, and participants. Welcome to the National Archery in the Schools Program State Finals staged at the State Fair Center under the direction of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
NASP has its origin in Kentucky several years ago. It was an effort to attract more kids to shooting sports, particularly those who didn’t know if they would like it or not. Turns out they do. More than 1.5-million youth are registered participants in NASP programs throughout the country.
The state shoot was expected to attract up to 1,000 competitors, all of whom spent considerable time honing their skills where they attend school
“We’ve got 14-15,000 kids doing this at schools in North Dakota,” said Jeffrey Long, NDGF outdoor skills coordinator. “That’s kind of been overlooked. It’s an impressive number.”
Indeed it is. The sound of arrows striking a target has been happening with regularity at high school gymnasiums across the state, all under the watchful eye of volunteer coaches.
The majority of archers participating in NASP had never pulled a bow or released an arrow before doing so at the local school. Most discovered they enjoyed it and are eager competitors in the program. With the help of local coaches, they have learned proper techniques which have allowed them to improve rapidly.
Participants learn where to aim, how to properly hold a bow, the importance of having a consistent anchor point and smooth release. They learn how a bow works and how to care for it. They learn etiquette, share advice, have fun, and build friendships, all while diligently following safety rules.
“It’s a really good program. The shooters really enjoy it,” said Arvid Anderson, Garrison.
Anderson was handling equipment inspection at the NASP shoot, checking competitors bows for a few basics, such as frayed strings, loose bushings, and any markings that could be used as sights. NASP is a free-style competition, no aiming sights are allowed.
“We give out orange stickers which say the bow was inspected,” said Anderson. “It saves work for the judges who don’t have to do it at the shooting line.”
For bullseye shooting there are 94 archers at the line at a time, with 47 targets being used. Pre-inspections save time for the line judges, greatly improving the efficiency of a very big event.
“This is the Super Bowl for these kids,” said Long. “They are competing for $20,000 in college scholarships in the Olympic-style tournament, and for an all-expenses paid guided antelope hunt in Wyoming in the 3D tournament.”
There were other prizes on the line too, such as earning a spot at the national NASP event in Kentucky. Competitors, ages 4-12, are divided up into boy’s and girl’s categories for elementary, middle school, and high school divisions. There are both individual and team awards too.
Minot’s State Fair Center has hosted the NASP finals for several years running. It has proven to be an excellent facility for the growing sport.
“We started in Bismarck and outgrew that,” said Long. “This venue is the right size for us.”