By Justin Hunter
CHURUBUSCO — Archery is not listed as an official sport by the Indiana High School Athletic Association. That doesn’t faze hundreds of kids in northeast Indiana who have joined their schools’ archery clubs.
The sport of archery has been prevalent in northeast Indiana for nearly a dozen years. According to many local coaches, archery is only getting more popular.
The local teams aren’t only getting more popular, they’re getting better, too. Both Whitko and Churubusco have qualified for nationals in Louisville this year. This is the first time Churubusco has qualified.
Whitko has partially suceeded due to senior Amy Hurd’s talents. Hurd is last year’s World 3D Outdoor Championship overall female champion. She is pleased the progress archery has made in the past years.
“The community involvement has been really encouraging,” said Hurd. “I feel like we were shorted from recognition, but now that we’ve gotten even better we feel like the community has really backed us.”
Archery is not just for high school students. There are elementary divisions for students as young as third grade and a middle division for grades six to eight.
The teams compete in 15-20 tournaments every year. Many of the tournaments are out of state, so the kids get to travel frequently. These tournaments average around 400 athletes. The larger schools have more than 50 kids in their clubs.
“It’s fun,” said Churubusco Head coach Dan Haire. “I tell parents this is a sport for a lifetime. I have nothing against football or basketball, but the only sports you can play past 40 years old are golf, tennis and archery. When a young man takes his uniform off in the sport of football, he may not play another game in his life. I’m 61 and I’m still competing (in archery) at the national level. You can’t do that in the other sports.”
Whitko also has a strong program.
“We encourage all the other schools in the area to get involved,” said Whitko head coach Bill Green. “We have kids coming in young and they’re very competitive by the time they’re a senior, but we also have kids joining later, too.”
Columbia City is the lone high school in Whitley County that doesn’t have an archery club. Whitley County Consolidated Schools Superintendent Patricia O’Connor said that she hadn’t heard an interest for an archery club at Columbia City’s schools.
Unlike other athletics, archery programs are not funded by the schools. Churubusco’s team relies on support from entities such as the American Legion, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and VFW.
Archery is more inclusive than many other high school sports.
There are a number of handicapped students who compete.
“I was born with a skin disease, so archery was really the only sport I could do,” said Ethan Fox, of Grand Ledge in Michigan. “I am only 13 years old, but my goal is to get a scholarship one day.”
Haire says there are many special moments that stands out to him, but one stands out the most in her career.
“The sport is full of proud moments,” said Haire. “One of my the kids I’ve coached is Austin McIntosh and he made it all the way to the world championship. I call him my archery son. He’s every bit as a son to me if we were blood related. We were shooting in a tournament together and he placed second, and I placed third. So we were on the podium together and that was probably the biggest highlight in my career.”