Knocking a hole in a target with a bow and arrow is 10-year-old Marli Evans' favorite thing to do.
“It makes me feel good because I know I've accomplished something,” said the sixth-grader at Fisher Elementary in Moore. “It makes me feel good about myself.”
Building self esteem is just one reason Oklahoma's Archery in the Schools program has been such a hit with teachers and administrators around the state.
On Wednesday, more than 1,200 elementary, middle and high school students and 64 teams from across Oklahoma competed in the Archery in the Schools state tournament at the State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.
The student archers and teams qualified from six regional tournaments. Administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, the top shooters and teams from Wednesday's tournament qualify to the national championship in Kentucky in May.
The archery sessions are taught in schools as part of physical education classes. The Wildlife Department provides training for the instructors.
Evans and Fisher Elementary were making their first appearance at the state shoot.
“I think it is a great program,” said John Daggs, physical education instructor at Fisher Elementary. “The kids really enjoy it. When we are not shooting, they are asking, ‘When are we bringing out the bows?”'
Daggs said Fisher Elementary started the program in December 2012 because another school in Moore encouraged it and parents were asking for it.
He worried at first that some would oppose students handling bows and arrows in the school.
“There were a little bit of concerns, but the way the Wildlife Department sets it up and with the safety precautions, the whistle commands, it's really a safe program,” he said.
Centennial Elementary in Mustang also brought its first team to the state shoot.
“We absolutely love it. The students love it,” said Carla Buck, physical education instructor at Centennial about the archery program.
Centennial was the first Mustang school to allow archery, and now three other elementary schools in the district have added it, she said.
Buck said students who don't excel in other sports can find their niche in archery. Some students with disabilities who can't play other sports “can do this.” she said.
“But we also have some really good athletes that do it (archery) too,” Buck said.
Daggs calls archery “a different kind of sport. It's still an athletic thing. It (requires) a lot of hand-eye coordination.
“But you do not have to run the fastest, be the quickest or jump the highest to be the best at archery. I have girls that come out and beat the boys.”
Like Evans, who also plays basketball but prefers shooting at targets than at a basketball goal.
“I am not as good at basketball and shooting a bow is a lot more fun,” she said. “I think it might come in more handy one day than playing basketball.”
Oklahoma Archery in the Schools State Shoot results
1. Kilah Sickler, Waylond Bonds, 425
2. Riane Tuthill, Chickasha, 418
3. Sally Kim, Houchin Elementary, 411
4. Cyndyl Mondragon, Houchin Elementary, 405
5. Rose Templeton, Shawnee, 398
1. Mitchell Ritter, Ringling Elementary, 435
2. Blake Crawford, Moss Elementary, 420
3. James Cagle, Will Rogers Junior High, 419
4. Joseph Black, Ringling Elementary, 413
5. Hal Thompson, Blue Bullseye, 408
MIDDLE SCHOOL FEMALE
1. Faith Terrell, Chandler Jr. High, 425
2. Bailey Williams, Chickasha Middle School, 422
3. Ambria Noman, Chickasha Middle School, 415
4. Codi Tolliver, Zaneis Middle School, 409
5. Maggi Smith, Maryetta Middle School, 408
MIDDLE SCHOOL MALE
1. Jimmy Parham, Chickasha Middle School, 425
2. Case Tolliver, Healdton Middle School, 424
3. Tanner Dunlap, Morris Middle School, 423
4. Justin Veach, Chickasha Middle School, 422
5. Kegan Warrington, Zaneis Middle School, 418
6. Tye Eagleton, Maryetta Middle School, 406
HIGH SCHOOL FEMALE
1. Hunter Tolliver, Healdton High School, 431
2. Sydney McCarthy, Okarche Warriors, 419
3. Mikayla Phillips, Ringling High School, 417
4. Amanda Savig, Chandler High School, 416
5. Ashley Hannah, Chickasha High School, 415
6. Shelby Douglas, Chickasha High School, 409
HIGH SCHOOL MALE
1. Tyler Fletcher, Stillwell High School, 430
2. Braden Sedgwick, Beggs High School, 429
3. Wyatt Morgan, Sequoyah High School, 427
4. Adam Littlefield, Locust Grove High School, 423
5. Toby Roath, Wister High School, 419