Garfield County archers aim sights on nationals, scholarships
Ryan Hudson and his brigade of young archers have a big target in their sights.
Right now, the Garfield Re-2 agriculture instructor and coach of an archery program composed of students in and outside of Garfield County is preparing for a trip to a national archery competition in Las Vegas next month.
The Vegas Shoot, which was canceled in 2021 due to COVID-19, is slated for Feb. 3-6 at The South Point Hotel.
But more important than an opportunity to nab national accolades in Sin City, the archery coach yearns for his pupils to use this experience to go after college scholarships.
As archers practiced their accuracy inside Rifle High School’s rugged agriculture shop Monday, Hudson said he currently has five former archery students who are in college on full-ride shooting scholarships.
“I just want to make sure that these kids are having the same chance that I had, and the opportunities are just amazing,” he said. “The reality is, a little bit of success in the shop or the archery range translates into a ton of success in life.”
The local Scholastic Archery Association (dba Scholastic 3-D Archery chapter), with between 60-65 members coming from all over the Western Slope, is in its fifth year. Whether they’re from Craig, Meeker, Loma, Mack or Grand Junction, many times they travel hours to practice in Rifle.
They won nationals the first year they went to Vegas.
Through this program, participants get to hone their skills for indoor, outdoor and 3D seasons, Hudson said. In addition to trying to master the bow and arrow, students address harvesting, management and ethical hunting.
“The reality is, it’s a mental game,” Hudson said. “It teaches a lot of fundamental concentration and anger management.”
Coal Ridge High School junior Addy Davis, 16, started pursuing the sport of archery about nine years ago. But what started more as a hobby transformed into Scholastic Archery Association participation, as well as college scholarships worth thousands of dollars.
While she doesn’t yet know what degrees she wants to pursue with these scholarships, she knows archery has already taught her one major lesson.
“Patience,” she said. “I still haven’t had it, but that’s the No. 1 thing that you need.”
Davis has so far competed in archery competitions all over the nation, including Kentucky, Montana and Las Vegas.
“You meet friends that you’re going to talk to at other competitions that you’d never know from other states or other countries, even,” she said. “That’s pretty cool.”
Tammy Miernicki, whose sons Tyler and Trey participate in the archery program, said they’re becoming better shooters and are developing a lot of awesome friendships.
“They’ve also had the ability to win different prizes, as far as hunting trips and stuff like that, by writing essays,” she said. “The (Scholastic 3-D Archery) program has taught them a lot about patience.”
With at least 4,000 archers flocking to Las Vegas for the national tournament next month, Miernicki said she’s excited to see how the kids handle the stress. Meanwhile, they get to meet with archery professionals and watch other shooters perform, using the spectacle as a way to see what personal skills they need to refine.
Miernicki said the trip to Vegas might put butterflies in her kids’ tummies.
“They’ve had their ups and downs, like any sport, so they have their good days and their bad days,” she said. “But each day is an opportunity to learn a little bit more for them.”
Hudson said kids are shooting arrow after arrow into less than a 5-inch circle, and not very many adults can accomplish such a pinpoint feat.
But Hudson, a confessed bow-and-arrow geek quick to give anyone a tutorial on the finer points of archery, also said it’s simply about the kids having fun.
“That’s probably the thing they remember the most at the end of the day is we went to Vegas, and we had a pizza party, and we shot some arrows. Oh yeah, ‘And I won a scholarship and was the best in the nation,’” he said. “But really, they don’t pay attention to those things. They care about that time where they hung out with friends and they got to have some success.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or email@example.com.
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UPDATE 10:34 P.M.: Four Mile Road is now reopened in both directions.