Archery is a team sport regulated by a national organization called the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). This may be the first time you’ve been told either of those things—unless you are associated with St. Croix Preparatory Academy in Stillwater. Archery gets a lot of school support at St. Croix Prep. SCPA has an indoor facility for archery practice and competition. There are other schools in the region with teams, but few schools in the country give archery that kind of focus.
John Slate is the head coach. Tim Warmka is the assistant coach. They agree that archery is a sport that offers a team experience to young people who may not be traditional athletes.
“Archery is more of a mind game than some other sports,” says Slate. “Kids who would like to be part of team but maybe aren’t interested in football or basketball often gravitate to it.” Slate says archery takes focus and discipline and that, even though a tournament team involves 24 students, it’s also an individualized sport. Of the 24 competitors, only the top 12 scores are counted in the final tally, so everyone goes to the line to try to do their personal best.
Archery isn’t an expensive sport to get involved with at the high school level. The only kind of bow the NASP allows in competition is the Genesis Original bow which costs about $220 new—including arrows, arm guard and quiver—but if you want to join the team at SCPA you can rent a bow and arrows—the whole kit—for $40 for the season.
The student athlete’s investment doesn’t need to be significant, but St. Croix Prep has made an investment in the team by giving them dedicated time in a gym that lets the coaches control practice schedules. Archery teams at other schools may have to carve out space around other sports and practice in a loud and crowded gym.
“We are very fortunate to have the facility we have compared to other teams,” Warmka says. “The school has really made a commitment to our team.”
St. Croix Prep teams are not strangers to state and national tournaments and the coaches are particularly proud of 2016 High School Female National Champion Rowen McAllister. Coach Warmka was with her when she won a $20,000 college scholarship in a head-to-head shoot-out—meaning the archer closest to the bull’s eye was given the scholarship.
“The day is a bit of a blur, but I particularly remember the advice of my coaches and the support from my peers,” McAllister says. “I remember my head coach, John Slate, called me from his daughter’s wedding to remind of something he said to all of us all the time—‘just breathe.’”
Even though McAllister had been on the archery team since seventh grade, she didn’t think of herself as national championship material.
“Coach Warmka, who was the only coach there with me, reminded me that whatever happened in the shoot-out, he was so proud of me,” she says.
McAllister is currently in school at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. where, unfortunately, there’s no archery team. But she says she will always remember her high school archery career with gratitude and fondness.
“The coaches are so dedicated to the sport, putting in so much time and energy for the students. Their mentorship was so important to me during high school. I am so grateful for them and the SCPA archery team,” she says.