When Worthington Schools’ Bluffsview Elementary School fifth-grader Amelia Gorbett heads to the school’s gym after school, she’s not aiming to play basketball or volleyball.
She is there to practice archery as a member of the Bluffsview archery team.
“It’s been really fun,” said Amelia, who joined the team in fourth grade. “Seeing your scores and how you did that day is always really fun, and seeing how you can improve.”
Coach Ben Wilson said archery is a rare extracurricular sport in central Ohio, with Bluffsview being one of the only schools in the area – let alone an elementary school – to offer it. Students have to try out for the team, and this year, he said, Bluffsview has 31 archers on its roster.
Because archery is an uncommon scholastic activity in central Ohio, the Bluffsview team often competes against more rural schools throughout the state, Wilson said. Despite this, the team has won a state championship in 2013, 2019 and this year at Ohio’s National Archery in the Schools Program on March 19 and 20.
Wilson said he’s allowed to take 24 archers to the state championship, with the top 12 scorers accounting for the team’s scores at the tournament. The competition has three scoring rounds from 10 meters and another three scoring rounds from 15 meters.
Bluffsview won this year with a total team score of 3,089.
Fourth-grader Aarush Singh is in his first year on the team. Fourth grade is the earliest a student can join. He said he was inspired by an older friend on the team to pick up a bow and try it out – and when he did, he made the cut.
“I always looked up to him, and it kind of inspired me to be on the archery team,” Aarush said. “I was always trying my best to get on, and I got on.”
Aarush said archery is a sport that takes constant practice to improve.
“You have to focus, and you have to try hard, and you have to have determination,” he said. “It’s a lot of hand-eye coordination.”
Wilson, a physical-education teacher at Bluffsview, started the school’s archery program in 2012 after hearing a presentation from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ’Division of Wildlife during a phys-ed workshop. Wilson, who said he didn’t have any archery experience at the time, said he was told the Wildlife Division would provide equipment if he would go through the proper training.
Hundreds of elementary school students have participated on the team since then, he said. As their coach, Wilson teaches them the proper technique required to proficiently and safely wield a bow and become a skilled archer.
“It takes a lot of patience,” he said. “A lot of breaking it down step by step and trying to make something very complicated simple.
“I think part of it is just taking them along in a nice slow progression and making it fun,” he said.
That includes correcting a lot of the common mistakes inexperienced archers tend to make, such as flinching when an arrow is released or upon anticipating of releasing the string.
“They want to lunge and peek,” Wilsons said.
“One of the fascinating things about it is just the individualization, which is that one student may be doing something that another student does that is totally different,” he said. “They all have one or two things that we really have to focus on. and look at. ”
The state championship was especially fun, according to team members who competed.
“It felt really relieving,” said fifth-grader Ellie Pallan, who shot a 269 out of a possible 300 at state. “It was kind of like, ‘Wow, this is a new thing we could try again maybe next year.'”
“It felt amazing,” said fifth-grader Glenna Tweedle, who shot a 266. “I felt like I was going to cry.”
“These guys did such a great job this year,” Wilson said. “This group is so fun to work with. One of our most pleasant groups. They’re very hardworking, very coachable and very self-sufficient. This group has both the skill and intangibles that we like. ”
The archery team’s state championship trophy and a variety of other trophies and hardware from its accomplishments over the years are on full display in a trophy case near the main entrance to Bluffsview Elementary School.
“It’s definitely a very important part of the school community,” Wilson said.