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Ronan Middle School archery hits the mark

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As confident as Ronan Middle School teacher Crystal Pitts looks behind a bow, a passive observer might never guess that until three years ago she’d never shot a one.

An avid pistol shooter, Pitts said archery was something her husband and sons enjoyed, but she’d never had the same appreciation.

“For me, personally, it just wasn’t something I was interested in,” she said.

That all changed when her husband bought her a bow for her birthday three years ago.

“So, I got into pistol shooting about six years ago, but what I liked about the bow was that I didn’t have to wear ear plugs. I didn’t have to clean my bow every time I shot it, and I didn’t have to reload it. It was a lot of fun,” Pitts said.

So, armed with a new passion, Pitts told a fellow educator about the pastime and, in so doing, learned about the National Archery in the Schools Program.

“A year and a half ago, I started getting certified (as an archery instructor) through NASP,” Pitts said. “It’s all about training and they want the program to be represented well. I really like (it). I believe the program has a lot to offer the kids.”

Even so, getting the program off the ground wasn’t easy. So, Pitts turned to the community and was pleased to report that many local committees and businesses helped get the program up and running. Some businesses, like Ronan Sports and Western, actually gave more than Pitts asked for.

“I had great community help,” Pitts said. “We had donations from lots of organizations. The bulk of the bows came from Mission Valley Archers and the Indian Education Committee. Hanson and Granley True Value built and donated a bow rack, and Ronan Sports and Western donated 10-dozen arrows — I only asked for five dozen, so that was great.”

With so much community support, Pitts was able to roll out the program this spring. Pitts oversees seven periods of NASP physical education every day. With 10 shooting lanes and five arrows per lane set up in the middle school gym, more than 350 arrows per day find their mark with a soft thump.

“I think the kids are enjoying it,” Pitts said. “Some are really nervous, so it’s a new adventure, and some are excited and want to shoot more. For some kids, it’s a little nerve racking, but they’ve done really well.”

Ronan Middle School student Mercedes Wirz said the best part of the NASP program was that it made her feel like a heroine from some of her favorite books and movies.

“That’s fun,” she said while waiting in line to shoot again. “I like the feeling (of shooting a bow and arrow) because it makes me feel like I’m Katniss Everdeen and I’m at the hunger games.”

“Or the girl from ‘Brave!’” exclaimed one of Wirz’s nearby friends.

Amid the flying arrows and excited students, Pitts smiled and said her hope is to inspire in her students a love for a sport that can be continually enjoyed for a lifetime.

“That’s the intent of it — to make it a lifelong skill,” Pitts said. “It’s for fun, for targets and for hunting, so you have a lot of different avenues you can go down.”

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