Local archers enjoyed a very strong showing in Nashville this summer

Deacon Barclay and Taylor Knudtson were part of the National Archery in Schools Program Canadian International Team

A pair of local young archers helped catapult the Canadian International Team to second place this past July at the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) in Nashville.

Three from the local archery team at William E. Hay Secondary Campus – Deacon Barclay, Katlyne Glasier and Taylor Knudtson – ended up in the top 24 of NASP Canadian archers earlier this year in Regina.

And this past July, Knudtson and Barclay competed in the NASP Worlds Tournament as well as the All Star Tournament which ran July 25th to 27th in the legendary ‘Music City’.

“It was a combination of Worlds and All Stars,” explained coach Tanja Bessette-Heatherington.

“There was probably, at the actual event, 3,000 to 4,000 archers. And then when it came to the All Stars, you had the top teams from Canada and the U.S. onsite, and Namibia shot offsite,” she said. “Canada ended up second!”

The United States landed the top spot.

“Canada did very well, and there were Canadians who also placed in the top five for individuals,” she added. “As a team, it was just great.”

Bessette-Heatherington, who is also an educational assistant at the school, said that the team members attend four tournaments throughout the province during the competitive season.

She coaches two local teams in total, which number about 50 participants.

As for the NASP program, Bessette-Heatherington said that it was first launched back in the early 2000s in Kentucky.

Today, it’s in about 14 countries and interest in the sport continues to flourish. The program has been up and running in Canada for about 10 years now.

Barclay said the experience down south was indeed memorable. “The first day was a bit nerve-wracking because it’s like, okay, I had to shoot not just for my team but also for my country,” he said. “It was a really big moment.

“I really enjoyed it – meeting new people and just being there. It was amazing. It was also amazing to see that Canada ended up (where it did) in the rankings. I was very grateful to be a part of it.”

Knudtson agreed.

“It was a good experience. We got to meet a lot of people and many from the States.”

Also, it wasn’t all work and no play. The guys took in some of the famed sites of Nashville, including the Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame.

As for the sport of archery itself, it’s far more complex and even demanding than what most people might realize. And, according to worldarchery.org, it’s one of the oldest arts still practiced.

“The earliest evidence of archery dates to the late Paleolithic period, around 10,000 BC, when the Egyptian and neighbouring Nubian cultures used bows and arrows archery for the purposes of hunting and warfare.

“In China, archery dates back to the Shang dynasty (1766-1027 BC).”

As Bessette-Heatherington has pointed out as well, there is a uniqueness about how the sport demands much from you physically as well as mentally.

Archers have to be able to focus, and to tune out any kind of surrounding distraction.

“I’m thrilled for the kids,” she said, reflecting on the recent achievement. “We’ve had kids make this team ever since my daughter Jessa did back in 2015, so we’ve been sending kids on this international team for the past four years,” she said. “I’m thrilled about that – absolutely thrilled. The group of kids that I have is fantastic.

“They are a lot of fun – we have a great time when we are in the gym together and we learn a lot about each other and about ourselves, too.”

Another highlight – a major competition is slated for Feb. 7th and 8th here at the high school. “It’s pretty well-attended. Last year, we had about 500 archers show up. So we will practice from October through to December, and then come February we will be competing from February to April. Provincials again and Nationals hopefully.”

As mentioned, the local teams will kick off the new season of perfecting their skills in October, and in the meantime, the Archery Club is holding a bottle drive on Oct. 19th in the high school’s parking lot from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Donations are of course welcome during the event.

“I also send the kids around – they traverse the entire town and then I cook them burgers,” she added with a laugh.

The money raised during the bottle drive helps to offset costs of attending Nationals and other events.

For Bessette-Heatherington, guiding these young students along the path of building their archery skills is incredibly fulfilling.

“I like it when that kid who says to me, ‘I can’t, I can’t, I can’t’ all of a sudden says, ‘I did it!’

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