MASON — A new team sport at Wahama High School is aiming to be a successful one, with 20 students participating in the inaugural year.
The Wahama Archery Team has already participated in two tournaments, and Coach Larry Gray is pleased with the early results.
Gray, who is assisted by his wife Theresa, as well as Todd Grinstead and Luke Harris, said the team competed at both Ravenswood and Ripley in the past few weeks. Over 800 archers were in each tournament.
“We’re doing very good for our first year,” Gray said. “The best score possible is 300. We’ve had one member with a 261, and a girl with a 255.”
Gray continued that the team has already had its first member, Olivia Johnson, score a perfect 50, which is five arrows within the 10-point circle. For that, she will be receiving a lapel pin at the end of the season for her efforts.
The coach said plans for the team began back in the fall, when school officials and his wife started talking and mulling the idea. Gray said his son was interested in being on the team, and he knew he would be at all the practices and tournaments, so he took the Basic Archery Instructor (BAI) certification training in Wheeling.
An avid bowman himself, Gray said he loves anything outdoors, including bow hunting and fishing. A union ironworker by trade and also a taxidermist, Gray soon found himself at the helm of the new team.
He said the kids have held fundraisers and approached businesses for donations to begin the program, which runs from January through the end of April.
The team practices twice a week, for two hours each, in the school cafeteria. The archers shoot three rounds at 10 meters, then an additional three rounds at 15 meters. Gray said it is great for students who might not be traditionally termed as “athletic.”
The coach said he keeps the program fun, but it also teaches the students teamwork, camaraderie, how to follow instructions, and most of all, safety.
“It’s a hazard here,” Gray said. “People could get shot if the kids are careless. We stress safety more than anything.”
The team presently has 15 bows and seven targets, but Gray said that is just a start. He is hoping to raise the funds necessary to have 24-30 targets, as well as a computer program that assists in scoring the archers. The goal is to hold a tournament next year at Wahama.
That isn’t Gray’s only goal, however. He is working to get Wahama accepted into the Appalachian Archery Conference, a league that includes nearby schools including Ripley, Eastern, Athens and others. Once accepted, the league membership is $100 annually, which affords the team to shoot for free five times a year. Gray said it will more than pay for itself, since entering the recent Jackson County tournaments cost a combined $250.
The coach is also hoping to expand membership next year, so he can have both a middle school, as well as high school team. He has already spoken with officials at New Haven Elementary School with the goal of starting an archery program there for sixth graders, as part of the physical education curriculum.
As for the immediate future, the team will be competing at Eastern High School on April 20, with a flight time of 6 p.m. Gray will also be attending two banquets in April, where White Tails Unlimited of Portland, Ohio, and the West Virginia Trophy Hunters Association of South Charleston will be making donations to the program.
“There are a billion people I could thank that helped get this program started,” Gray said.
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the team can contact the school at 304-773-5539.
Mindy Kearns is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.