Prairie Archery Club heading to nationals

Junior Colin Roben takes aim April 18 during a Prairie Archery Club practice at Prairie Point Middle School in Cedar Rapids. The club, which was founded in 2015, recently qualified for a national tournament. (Nick Rohlman / The Gazette)

Coach Mitch Bock gives instruction during an April 18 Prairie Archery Club practice at Prairie Point Middle School. (Nick Rohlman / The Gazette)

Students take aim April 18 during a Prairie Archery Club practice at Prairie Point Middle School. The club recently qualified for a national tournament to be held in May. (Nick Rohlman / The Gazette)

Junior Lucas Nelson removes arrows from a target during an April 18 Prairie Archery Club practice held at Prairie Point Middle School in Cedar Rapids. (Nick Rohlman / The Gazette)

(From left) sophomore Natalie Baustian, freshman Ashlie Kascel, junior Lucas Nelson and junior Colin Roben take aim as Coach Cameron Woodson (back) looks on during an April 18 Prairie Archery Club practice held at Prairie Point Middle School. (Nick Rohlman / The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Prairie Archery Club students who qualified for a national tournament were last week quietly focused, loading their arrows and drawing back on the bow string before releasing, aiming at foam targets in the gym at Prairie Point Middle School.

The aluminum arrows made a muffled thwack sound as they hit their targets – either a foam bull’s-eye or 3D foam animals of a turkey, coyote, bear, pronghorn and a whitetail deer. At the whistle, students walked up to the targets and observed where their arrows landed before gathering them up to start again.

Elizabeth Kacena, 18, a senior at Prairie High said, her aim is “dead-on” and she’s working to improve her release to ensure she hits her target every time as she prepares for nationals in May. Kacena, also a member of the bowling team, said the sports are similar. Archery is like “bowling put on its side,” she said.

Kacena is one of 37 students at Prairie High School and Prairie Point Middle School to qualify for a national archery tournament next month in Louisville, Ky.

Students who qualified for nationals resumed practices last week after their regular season ended in March after competing in the Iowa Schools State Tournament in Des Moines.

In the state bull’s-eye tournament, the high school team won third out of 28 teams, and won a $ 500 equipment grant. The middle school team won seventh out of 29 teams, and student Noah Reu won seventh out of 391 individuals.

In the state 3D tournament, the high school team won second out of 21 teams and a $ 1,000 equipment grant. The middle school team won eighth out of 20 teams, and Isaac Denning won fourth out of 174 individuals and Karlee Hamilton won seventh out of 144 individuals.

Over 1,800 archers from more than 120 Iowa schools participated in the state tournament. Forty-nine archers from the Prairie Archery Club qualified for state. There are about 160 seventh-12th grade students in the College Community School District on the archery team.

Claire Cornelius, 13, a seventh-grader at Prairie Point Middle, joined the Prairie Archery Club after being introduced to the sports in Girl Scouts when she was younger. She qualified for state, and said she feels like she does better practicing with friends by her side who make her feel “more comfortable and confident.”

They tease each other when they make a bad shot and laugh about it, she said.

Skye Murillo, 12, a seventh-grader at Prairie Point Middle, said she was inspired to try archery because of “The Hunger Games,” science fiction dystopian films based on a trilogy of novels by author Suzanne Collins, where the characters often use bows and arrows.

In a practice earlier this year, coaches placed apples on foam human heads for target practice. Skye tried to aim at the apple and ended up shooting the arrow straight in to a foam forehead, she said with a laugh.

Leading up to nationals, the students are focusing on their mindset and the mechanics of archery, said Mike Feuerbach, a coach with the team whose daughter, Madelynn Feuerback, 18, a senior at Prairie High, is going to nationals this year.

“Their hard work is paying off,” Mike Feuerbach said.

Mitch Bock, a coach with the Prairie Archery Club, said repetition is key in this kind of training.

The sport is a bonding experience for Bock and his daughters – an 11th-grader and seventh-grader in the College Community School District, he said.

Qualifying for nationals shows “the dedication these kids put in to the sport and the achievements they’ve made throughout the season,” Bock said.

Comments: (319) 398-8411; grace.king@thegazette.com

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