Right on Target : Archery Is Hitting the Mark With Southland Enthusiasts

Oliver is a frequent contributor to The Times

I uncase my bow, its beauty to behold,

I sense the power in its limbs, ready to unfold,

I string the bow and check it for its tune.

It responds, in knowing that we shall be singing soon.

I face the target, my feet in place.

I nock the arrow, its course soon to race.

I draw the bow and anchor fast.

Sighting now, the shot to cast.

I now look for placement of the shot.

The scoring points really matter now.

We have shot and now are done.

The bow, the arrow and I are one.

Morey Miller, Pasadena Roving Archers

"The peace of mind that you feel after a perfect shot is what we all strive for," says Ed Ryman, a director of the Pasadena Roving Archers, a field archery club that meets in Lower Arroyo Park, not far from the Rose Bowl. Ryman has been fascinated by bows and arrows for 55 years.

"Your greatest competitor is yourself," he says. "It's a sport of self-control."

Archery, one of mankind's oldest sports, appears to be growing in popularity in Southern California, although it doesn't rank high as a spectator sport. The archers themselves are the enthusiasts.

Jan Isenberger, archery coach at Cypress College, agrees. "Watching an archery meet is about as spectacular as watching grass grow," she says, explaining that it's a "technical sport."

Actually, the sport takes two forms: field archery and target archery. In both, archers shoot at paper targets mounted on bales of hay. The goal is to come as close as possible to the center of the yellow bull's eye; then you get a score of 10. Arrows that hit farther out in the circle score from 1 to 9 points.

Field archery, which grew out of hunting with bow and arrow, is a sport in which the archers rove from target to target on a range, much as golfers play hole after hole. Any type of bow can be used, however, many field archers are using the compound bow, which has pulleys at each end. Archers need less strength to pull this type of bow.

JoAnn Heithe of the Pasadena Roving Archers explains:

"As you draw the bow, the weight is reduced by half. At full draw, you have only about half the weight you started out with. The bow makes it easier for kids to learn."

In target archery, recognized by the Olympics, participants--all wearing white--shoot at targets placed at set distances. Archers in Olympic archery must use a recurve bow, which requires greater strength to draw. The recurve is made of a magnesium alloy with fiberglass and wood or carbon limbs.

Protection is a vital part of the sport. Archers need finger tabs to save wear and tear, and arm guards protect their arms against the impact of the string.

Arrows are made of aluminum or carbon, with a point on one end and fletching on the other, and archers place their names or initials on the shaft to identify their arrows at the target. Just to round out the nomenclature, arrows are stored in a quiver.

Cost can be a factor in getting into the sport. A good adult bow costs about $500, and arrows are $45 to $50 a dozen.

"Target archery has been an Olympic sport since 1972," says Karl Radde, secretary-treasurer of the State Archers of California. "Before that, it was classified as a demonstration sport. Of course, it's one of the most ancient sports in the world."

Bill Fujimoto, a micro-computer consultant from San Gabriel, has been in target archery for five years, competing from his wheelchair.

"In the 1984 Olympics I saw a woman from New Zealand shoot from a wheelchair. I realized then that I could do it too," he says.

Fujimoto took archery lessons at a pro shop in Monrovia, where he received encouragement. Within six months he was competing at meets. Today, he practices several times a week at El Dorado Park in Long Beach.

Compete With Self

"Getting outdoors and getting into a sports activity with competition made the activity worthwhile for me," he said. "Ideally, you compete with yourself, but you do compare your score with those of others."

At the Duel of the Deserts, a recent target archery meet at El Dorado Park, competitors came from various parts of California and from Arizona, Nevada, Ohio and Mexico.

Fujimoto shot next to Rick McKinney of Arizona. McKinney was a silver medalist in the 1984 Olympics and on the men's silver medal team in the 1988 Olympics.

"Archery is a sport in which you can shoot with world-class archers," Fujimoto said. "In that way, it's unique."

During the two-day meet, archers shot at targets from different distances. Unlike the noisy hurly-burly of other sports, the field was quiet and serene. During the 30-meter shoot, archers stepped up to a line to shoot three arrows within 2 1/2 minutes. They retrieved the arrows, marked the score and repeated the process again until 36 arrows were shot.

The archers used binoculars or mounted scopes to see where their arrows hit the target. Spectators could feel the athletes' intense concentration as they drew their bows, aimed and finally shot.

Aids Camaraderie

In spite of the archers' solitary intensity while shooting, aficionados say the sport also promotes camaraderie.

"Although you shoot as an individual, you walk to the target with a group to retrieve your arrows and score," Lloyd W. Brown Jr. says. "You get to know the other archers."

Brown is in charge of Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD), a program that provides free archery lessons for youths under the age of 18.

"The goal of JOAD is to teach kids life skills through archery," Brown says. "These skills, which can be applied to other areas of life, are goal-setting, fitness and self-achievement."

"Archery takes a tremendous amount of self-focusing," says Sandra Saunders of Mar Vista. Saunders coaches children at Rancho Park. "You have to have control over your mind and pull from your inner self," she says.

Saunders' sons, Stacy, 15, and Brian, 16, have competed nationally after participating in archery for about four years. She says that a beginner might start competing after several months of instruction. Lessons are essential, she feels.

"Archery is a sport that you must be taught," she says. "You can practice and practice, but without the proper form you won't improve. We try to emphasize the positive. If someone is keeping his arm down, we tell him, 'Keep the bow up!' We don't say, 'You're dropping your arm.' Kids learn that if they have a problem, they can work on it and improve."

Saunders has a sense of satisfaction when she sees young people participating in an activity where they can set goals and attain them. The sport attracts some youngsters who have physical handicaps.

"We have a 17-year-old girl who shoots from her wheelchair, a boy who is deaf and a 17-year-old whose liver disease has caused him to be short," she said. "They can still participate in this sport."

Besides competing in their own age divisions, proficient young archers can also compete with adults. Scott McKechnie, 14, of Long Beach, has been in archery for 3 1/2 years. This year he came in third in a national tournament for all ages that was held in Ohio.

"I like the traveling," he said. "It gives me a chance to know the top kids in the country."

Age, height, weight and sex are not primary factors for success.

"Archery is a sport in which women can do as well as men," says Lynn Cicotte, an attorney who lives in Rancho Palos Verdes.

"I never shot archery as a youth," Heithe of the Pasadena Roving Archers says. "I started at the age of 47. Within one year I was proficient enough to win a state championship."

"The sport helps develop the muscles of the upper back over the shoulder blades, the muscles at the top of the arms and the pectoral muscles in the chest," says Isenberger of Cypress College. "It's a sport for kids as young as 5 or 6 up to seniors in their 80s and 90s."

Enthusiasts also promote archery as an ideal family sport.

"In field archery, a family can go through the range together. The kids shoot from a shorter distance," Cicotte says. "Kids as young as 7 or 8 compete in our events."

"My father started me in archery when I was a child of 5," said Nancy Walters, state secretary of California Bowman Hunters, the state branch of the National Field Archery Assn. "The sport taught me how to win and lose at an early age," she said. "I would say that in California archery is a growing sport. We had an increase of about 400 members in California Bowmen during the past year."

Free lessons for children and adults are offered on Saturdays by the Pasadena Roving Archers. Equipment is provided. You can also take lessons at one of the pro shops listed in the Yellow Pages under archery.

Also, there are many archery clubs in Southern California, and they can be located through one of more of the following associations:

California Bowman Hunters Assn. is the state branch of the National Field Archery Assn. Contact Nancy Walters, state secretary, (714) 393-9630.

State Archers of California (target archery), Karl Radde, secretary-treasurer, (714) 861-8638. This group is part of the National Archery Assn., a member group of the U.S. Olympics Committee, 1750 E. Boulder St., Colorado Springs, Colo. 80909-5778, telephone (719) 578-4576.

Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) gives free classes for those under 18 at sites throughout the Southland. Equipment provided. Telephone (213) 272-4379. Sponsored by Easton Sports Development, Lloyd W. Brown Jr., director, telephone (818) 782-6445. In San Diego area, contact Wayne Hallet, (619) 748-1163. In Conejo Valley, contact Archery Sports, (805) 495-8243.

Pasadena Roving Archers gives free lessons on Saturday mornings for children and adults from 9 to 11 a.m. in the Lower Arroyo Park. Contact Edward Ryman, director, (818) 792-6808, for directions.

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