BELTON — Students stood shoulder to shoulder with their opponents. After the whistle was blown, they grabbed their arrows and gently placed them on the bow.
As the students pulled back, aimed and released, the popping sound of hundreds of arrows hitting multiple targets filled the Bell County Expo Center’s exhibition room.
Ellison High School and Nolanville Elementary School students competed for the first time in Thursday’s state archery competition.
More than 1,300 students from 51 schools in Texas registered for the event, with 100 students competing at a time as they lined the walls of the competition hall.
Ellison freshman Abel Valle, who is among the team’s top shooters, said his teammates typically practice standing close to one another and cheering each other on. But standing next to a stranger during the competition took some getting used to.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” said Valle, who got a perfect score during the first round. “I like the feeling of hitting (the bulls-eye) and knowing that you’re very accurate with a bow and arrow. ... I try to stay humble, but I get very competitive.”
Josh Stacey, one of three teachers who sponsor the club, said he wanted to offer it to students to give them another avenue to succeed and showcase their talents.
“Not all these kids are gifted athletically, not all these kids are gifted musically. It’s just another way our district and our school is very, very big on getting these kids connected somehow, some way,” said Stacey, who is also offensive line coach for the Ellison football team and the head girls’ track coach. “You don’t have to be the best athlete or the best singer or the best dancer or the smartest kid. You just come out, have focus, and concentration and you’ll be very successful.”
With just a few months between the club’s formation and the state competition, Stacey said the students practiced honing their archery skills throughout the week both during and after school.
The Nolanville club held its first meeting in September with at least 100 members. The school’s physical education teacher, RaeAnn Melvin, said they picked the top 25 students to compete at state.
“It’s been a really neat experience,” Melvin said, adding other schools in the district are planning to start their own archery club.
Fifth-grader Josef Bayer said he enjoys shooting arrows and watching where they’ll hit the target.
“At school, we practiced two times this week and many other times before at home,” Bayer said. “I’m looking forward to playing and doing good.”