High Marks: Sheffield Archery Club doesn’t take long to stand out; Kolten Johnson wins Middle School state title

A couple months ago, Sheffield didn’t have a scholastic archery club.

Now it has a junior high state champion archer.

Nearly as quickly as physical education teacher Shannon Linkerhof started teaching an outdoor education class in Sheffield, seventh-grader Kolten Johnson has won a state archery title.

“Warren High had some bows,” said Linkerhof. “We borrowed some of their bows, and the kids that I had just really seemed into it. Some brought bows from home. I thought, ‘Wow, these kids really like archery.’

“We’ll give it a shot.”

Linkerhof was introduced to a National Archery in the Schools Program scholarship opportunity with the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The program would provide equipment that would cost the public $6,000 or so for about $3,000, with the Game Commission providing a $1,500 grant and Easton, a sporting goods manufacturer, giving another $500.

Linkerhof thought of archery – in this case an indoor program – as a sport anyone and everyone can enjoy, and a sport that could turn into “a lifetime activity.”

With about $1,100 left to raise, “the community really pulled through,” said Linkerhof.

Cochran-Zandi Lumber, Sheffield and Clarendon VFW’s, Clarendon Ladies Auxiliary, and Sheffield Rod and Gun Club donated to rest.

From the Pa. Game Commission, Linkerhof said Sheffield’s National Archery in the Schools Program received a Kevlar Curtain for a backdrop, five targets, a dozen bows, arrows, repair equipment, and an individual – a teacher from Cameron County, Nick Keller – provided training. Linkerhof, and other teachers that could utilize the program, became a certified Basic Archery Instructor.

Linkerhof has plans to offer the program to every middle school and high school student at Sheffield. But this was all being put together pretty quickly; there was no way there would be enough time for students to enter the 2013 Pennsylvania National Archery in the Schools State Tournament.

Linkerhof didn’t want the senior class at Sheffield, students in their last year, to not experience this once-a-year tournament when this group helped start the in-school program.

Sheffield Area Middle/Senior High School Principal Amy Beers said, “Yeah, let’s go.”

“We had such a huge interest in just our high school phys ed class,” said Linkerhof. “We started a club.”

With space and time limited, the 35 or so students in the new archery club had to use the gymnasium at SAHS during lunch periods.

“Literally, we shot… during lunch,” said Linkerhof. “I said, ‘after you eat lunch, if you want to come down, I’ll be in the gym.’ Every day, during lunch, the gym has been filled with archers.”

Keep in mind, many of these students have never experienced archery, and the newly-certified Basic Archery Instructor hadn’t, either.

Landon McNeal, for example, “had never picked up a bow, period,” said his mother, Heather.

His little brother, Kolten Johnson, 13, has a couple years experience as a hunter. He also likes to shoot archery in his back yard, at lifesize 3-D animal targets. But never anything like the scoring targets used at the NASP state competition at Penn State University this past weekend.

Imagine the basketball movie Hoosiers, when the team walks into the larger-than-life size arena far away from home and measures the height of the hoop.

That’s what it was like for the two Sheffield teams – one made up of 16 students and one 17, walking into the Penn State Multi-Sports Facility in State College. It isn’t the Sheffield High School gymnasium.

“At our school, there is five targets with 10 kids shooting at one time,” said Linkerhof. “At Penn State, there were 95 targets all in a row. It was crazy.

“With 12 bows (and 33 shooters), I had to figure out who was shooting what bow at what time,” she said.

The scoring targets are marked with 10 evenly spaced concentric rings, which have score values from 1 through 10. To score a ten, you have to hit the “bullseye,” or X ring.

According to Linkerhof, each archer got five warm-ups from 10 yards away, and then 15 arrows that scored from 10 yards, and 15 arrows that scored from 15 yards.

It’s all pretty well organized so that all the shooters shoot their arrows before anyone walks down to the target to score the arrows.

“There were 200 kids lined up,” said Linkerhof. “It takes 15 minutes for every round.”

All in all, there were over 900 students in four divisions, High School Boys and Girls, and Middle School Boys and Girls.

“None of us knew what to think,” said his Kolten’s mother, Heather.

“There were seniors that had been shooting (in competitions) since third grade,” said Linkerhof. “We’ve been shooting for one month.”

The Sheffield students didn’t look like beginners – not at all.

When Kolten was finished, he had scored a 287 out of 300. He shot 20 perfect 10’s out of 30 shots, and every shot but one was either a 9 or 10. The last shot hit the bill of his cap and he still hit an 8.

“He was second overall for the entire tournament,” said Linkerhof. “The only kid who beat him was in high school (a senior) and had a 288.”

Johnson stood on the podium as the NASP Middle School Boys state champion, and earned an invitation to the NASP Nationals May 10 and 11 at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville, Kent.

Now Linkerhof is trying to figure out a way to get him there. “We’re raising money,” she said. “Tall Tales gave us a Hoyt bow worth $799 to raffle off.

“I knew there was a national competition, but I didn’t know how you qualified,” she said.

Sheffield, as a team, nearly qualified for nationals, with a number of individuals also coming close to qualifying. out of the 33 from Sheffield, eighth-grader Mason Albaugh was within four points of placing in his division with a 271X300;

Middle-schooler Mya Grubbs was in a four-way tie for fifth in her division, and five go to nationals from each division. But her tiebreaker came down to the number of 10’s, 9’s 8’s, etc. each shooter got. That’s how close she was;

Adam Higby, a sophomore at Sheffield, shot a 277X300, and 278 was good for fifth;

Mikayla Holden had a 260 out of 300.

“I thought Kolten would do well, but he won,” said Linkerhof of the competition (www.nasptournaments.org/VTResults.aspx?tid=190&season=2012-2013) that lasted from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Penn State.

It was beyond Linkerhof’s imagination that Sheffield would return a state champion and national qualifier after two months of indoor shooting, but now she’s shooting for the stars.

“It’s not going away,” she said. “I sent out a letter today saying, ‘Hey, we’re sending a kid to nationals, if you can help us any money above that will help to keep this program going.'”

The bus hadn’t even arrived back in Sheffield from State College when a student asked, “Are we shooting next week?”