In the championship tradition of Charleston sports and programs, you can now add a state championship archery team for Charleston Middle School and a state champion runner-up team for Charleston Elementary School. Both teams will compete in Nationals in May. The middle school state champion team has been invited to compete in “The Championship” competition that will held at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in June. The Charleston archery program is raising funds now to send the team to Myrtle Beach.
Recently, Resident Press had the opportunity to visit with the teams’ coach, Stacy Mitchum. Mitchum is a third grade teacher at Charleston Elementary School, and shares her passion for the sport with students in the elementary, middle, and high school. In our conversation, Mitchum said, “This is our sixth year. We started with a high school team and then we added each year (middle and elementary teams). Kids can start shooting in fourth grade. So this group that I have right now in the seventh grade is the first group that started with me in the fourth grade. That is why they are having success is because they have been with the program longer.” Mitchum herself is an archer, having competed in 3D archery. “3D is where you have shooting on a range in a wooded area and you shoot a life-sized, foam animals. It’s more like hunting with a bow.”
Mitchum started the team six years ago. “I loved 3D archery so much that I wanted to teach the kids to shoot. The National Archery in Schools program is like a springboard to get kids shooting and to like the sport. Then, they can get into compound bows and more competition.” There are several skills around the state that participate in the sport of archery. “The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is over the Arkansas National Archery in the Schools program. And that is how schools get started in the sport. They (Game and Fish Commission) give classes for instructors and provide grants to apply for equipment so you can start your program. And that is how we did it. We got a grant and the school matched it, so I was able to buy a starter set of bows, arrows, and targets and get it started. And we have just built on it every year.”
The Game and Fish Commission sanctions the state championships for archery. “We are not affiliated with the Arkansas Activities Association in any way. It is Game and Fish, and they fall under the national program, which was founded in Kentucky.”
Charleston now has an archery team at each campus in its district, and the elementary and middle school teams have finished as either runner-ups or state champions. This all means that the Tigers archers will be strong competitors for multiple state titles in the sport for the next four to five years. “I am hoping for the next several years (being highly competitive at the state level) because our fourth graders…I’ll have eight more years with them. I’m hoping that we will continue to build. We have 20 members on the elementary team, 24 members on the middle school team, and 17 members on the high school team. That is after several weeks of practice and try outs. At try outs, we had around 150 kids each year that tried out for the program. We have to narrow that number down to pick our competition teams. It (the participation numbers) has surprised me. In the beginning I was thinking that maybe we would get 20 kids that wanted to shoot, and I never dreamed I would have three teams that were winning state titles and would go on to the national championships.”
Mitchum’s husband, Donnie, is the assistant coach for the program, and the two are assisted by a parent volunteer, Jordan Johnson. “They have been through the instructor courses and they are certified instructors. So, it’s the three of us along with some really great parents that are willing to do whatever we need; fund raise, provide snacks, transportation…any thing we need.”
The Charleston school district provides a stipend for Mitchum to head the program. “The school district is very, very supportive of the program, and they are helping us with our fundraising and pay our entry fees for the championship tournaments at Myrtle Beach. They (the school district) help a lot and are very supportive.”
Due to COVID reasons, regional, state, and national competitions are virtual this year. “Usually, we place in the top two at district, and then we are invited to the state tournament. Then, the state tournament finish would determine if you move on to nationals. And then, after the national tournament, there is the world championships. Since nationals is virtual this year, we are moving on to the world championships. So, it is going to be a live event in Myrtle Beach.”
The program is actively fundraising to send the members of the team and their coaches to the competition in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The money that is being raised is earmarked for transportation, meals and lodging for the team. This Saturday, April 17, the program will sponsor a softball contest to raise funds for the trip. Readers and interested patrons can see a copy of the event’s promotional flyer above in this article.
On the following Saturday, April 24, a cornhole tournament will be held to also raise funds for the young archers’ trip to Myrtle Beach. A copy of that event’s promotional flyer is included below.
Patrons who cannot attend either fundraising event, but would like to donate money to the kids’ trip to South Carolina, can make-out their checks to the Charleston Public Schools and mark “archery donation” in the memo portion of their checks. Checks should be given to the Charleston Elementary School Office.
The Charleston archery program is targeting the amount of $25,000 for the trip to Myrtle Beach. It is difficult to estimate how much money remains to be raised due to several events currently in progress to raise funds.
Charleston has a championship pedigree within its sports and academic programs, and I have written extensively on them over the past few years. Now, add to that list the Charleston Archery in the Schools (CATS) program. In just their sixth year, coach Stacy Mitchum is building a program of not only state champions, but possibly national-award winning archery teams for the community of Charleston. Archery is a program that all kids, regardless of size, athletic ability, or economic circumstances, can compete on a level playing field with all other competitors across the state and nation. The program has a Facebook page that contains information regarding the program and its events. Readers can go to https://www.facebook.com/charlestonarcheryclub for more information.
I hope you will consider participating in the CATS’s many fund raisers, or consider donating to this great cause to provide a lifetime memory for the kids who participate in this program. Resident Press wishes the Charleston archery teams the best of luck in their fundraising and in their future championship competitions for this great program!