All but two of the 27 members of the Reeces Creek Elementary School archery team just started the sport this year and none experienced a state tournament until recently.

So, it was all the sweeter when the fourth- and fifth-graders released their arrows in the Texas State National Archery in Schools Program event March 24 at the Bell County Expo Center.

They performed like champions.

Reeces Creek Elementary School PE teacher Sharon Jackson began the after-school club seven years ago. The team qualified for state three years in a row, but last year’s event was cancelled due to the spreading coronavirus.

With a large contingent of parents and school staff members looking on, the Reeces Creek team members in their light green team T-shirts carefully aimed at targets and released setting off a wave of whacks that echoed through the Expo Center assembly hall.

“I think they shot really well,” said Jackson, following the team’s performance. “They showed a lot of focus and they had a lot of fun. They were able to apply what they learned.”

Student archers from elementary through high school completed two days of competition. Competing as two teams, Reeces Creek finished in 15th and 19th place. A total of 21 out of 27 shooters recorded their personal best.

Relieved and satisfied, several students acknowledged they began the event Wednesday awed and nervous after only shooting in their school gym. But, once they started, the training took over.

“It was good,” said fifth-grader Amy Scretchings. “I was nervous when we started the 15 meters. I liked that I got to be here with my friends.”

Participants set up in two long lines that stretched across the sprawling assembly hall. To maintain distance, students shot in separate groups, first at 10 meters and then at 15 meters.

They also retrieved their arrows and tallied their own scores with volunteers assisting.

“It was fun,” said fourth-grader Meena Wilkinson. “I was nervous at first, but when we started it was just like shooting in the gym. I like it because it’s fun. I made new friends.”

She explained that learning archery involves becoming accustomed to pulling back on the bow and soreness in the fingers, but more than that, the need to concentrate and practice.

“You have to stay focused,” she said, “and you have to work hard.”

“Today was a very competitive day,” said fifth-grader Corey Cain, “but I was prepared because of all the practices. I was kind of nervous, but I pushed through and breathed it out.”

“Last year, so many kids didn’t get to shoot,” Jackson said. “This is the fun day. This is what they worked for. They will remember this for the rest of their life. Hopefully, they will continue. They have learned a lot about safety and a lot about teamwork.”

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