Killeen ISD burst onto the state archery scene this year and an Ellison freshman is headed to the national tournament.
Two schools sent teams March 6 to the Texas State National Archery in Schools Program Tournament at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton and both came away with hardware.
Abel Valle scored 288 points, finishing fourth among high school boys and qualifying for the national tournament May 9 in Louisville, Ky.
Nolanville Elementary School’s archery team finished third among the state’s top elementary clubs, also earning a spot in the national tournament, though the team is not scheduled to make the trip.
On Friday, Burnie Kessner of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, which administers the archery in schools program, delivered the team trophy to Nolanville and a scholarship to Valle at Ellison.
Also at Nolanville, fifth-grader Audrey Merrill received recognition for finishing in fifth place at state among 89 elementary girls with 249 points out of 300.
After receiving his medal and $500 scholarship, Valle said he was excited to test his archery skills at the national level. “The state competition went good, but I could have done better,” he said.
The Ellison archer scored a perfect 50 on his first round, but tapered off the rest of the flight, he said.
When his coach, Joshua Stacey, told Valle he finished in the top 10 to qualify for nationals, the student didn’t believe him. “I was hysterical, at first I didn’t believe him,” Valle said.
“I called family members out of state I was so proud,” he said. “It’s exciting to get to shoot with the best and I’ve never been to Kentucky.”
“He did it all,” said Stacey, a new coach at Ellison who brought an interest in archery from a former school. “He’s worked hard. He will continue to improve. I couldn’t be more excited.”
Another Ellison archer, senior Nathan Diederich, finished in 12th place, two spots away from qualifying for nationals.
“It was really cool,” said Audrey, the Nolanville fifth-grader who finished fifth at state. “It was a little scary at first, but it was fun to get that chance to compete at state.
“I was completely shocked,” she said. “I didn’t know that I was that good.”
Raeann Melvin and Mike Duncan, PE teachers at Nolanville began offering an archery unit three years ago. They won a KISD Education Foundation grant, expanded the program and quickly drew interest.
Now, the two educators said archery is a chance for students of widely varied backgrounds and abilities to shine. Duncan said archery has improved attendance and decreased disciplinary referrals.
“I like it because it’s cool and fun,” Audrey said. “Most people think you just pull back and aim, but you have to focus.”
While Nolanville’s team won’t make the trip to Kentucky, they did go to the Heart of Texas archery tournament in Waco last weekend and won it.