More than 1,000 children participate in Des Moines State Archery Tournament

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa State Fairgrounds traded blue ribbons for bows and arrows Saturday morning.

The National School Archery Program tournament drew more than a thousand competing children to the 4-H building and the Jacobson Expo Center, some as young as 10 years old. Archers tested their skills with stationary targets or moving targets intended to simulate animals in the wild.

“It’s a sport they can play for a lifetime,” said Tiffini Douglas-Spaur, who coaches the Albia Community School District archers. “If something happens and they need to feed their family, they can go hunting because they learned archery.”

The event is hosted in part by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. His archery coordinator, Zach Benttine, said the competition was more about happiness than winning.

“It’s enlightening to see little fourth graders with bows about as big as them…everyone is just happy,” Benttine said. “As long as they’re doing it for fun, you can’t ask for more.”

Douglas-Spaur said archery has exploded in popularity over the past decade.

“Participation has at least doubled since our first competition eight years ago,” Douglas-Spaur said. “In our first year, the room wouldn’t have looked like this. There were no crowds, you could see from one end to the other and walk through easily.

Benttine thinks the new popularity of archery comes down to its accessibility for any student.

“There are no limits,” Benttine said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re tall or short, anyone can compete as long as you want to practice.”

The tournament continues at the state fairgrounds on Sunday morning.

Earnest A. Martinez