Move over Robin Hood, an 11-year-old Pine-Strawberry School sixth-grader is poised to steal some of your archery thunder.
She’s Skyler Cornelius, a fledgling competitor who finished first at the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) Arizona State Championships held March 3 at Ben Avery Shooting Range near Phoenix.
With the win, she qualifies for the upcoming national tournament to be held May 11-12 in Louisville, Ky.
Cornelius says she’s unsure if she will be able to participate due to the traveling distance involved.
In the state championship tournament, Cornelius was competing for the second successive year, having finished fourth at the 2011 finals.
“She’s been shooting just one year, but that was when we first recognized her talent,” said Dean Pederson, who coaches Cornelius along with assistant Margaret Bullard.
Cornelius’ interest in archery developed after she became a big fan of outdoor television programs that focus on hunting and other adventures.
“Watching those I got to thinking I’d like to learn archery and someday go hunting with my dad, maybe for deer,” Cornelius said.
With her interest in archery spawned, Pine Strawberry School turned out to be the ideal spot for her to learn the skills of the sport since principal Mike Clark and the school board had last year agreed to offer a full scale NASP program.
“We are very thankful to them for that,” Pederson said.
In the school NASP-sanctioned class, Cornelius was taught archery history, safety, technique, equipment, mental concentration, core strengthening physical fitness and self-improvement.
In the program, Cornelius and her fellow students shoot at 80 cm bulls-eye targets placed before an arrow curtain in the PS gymnasium. Equipment used is state-of-the art and designed to fit every student.
Thanks to support from the archery industry, schools can purchase the $6,000 equipment ‘kits’ for $3,100 to $3,500 depending upon which targets and bow hanging units are chosen.
Pederson and Bullard also expressed gratitude for Jeremy Ulmer at Chasin’ a Dream Outfitters in Payson for his big-time support of the local program.
Before jump-starting the archery course at the Pine Strawberry School, Pederson and Bullard underwent an eight-hour National Archery in the Schools Program Basic Archery Instructor Training Program.
The archery education program was started in Kentucky in 2002 and has spread throughout the United States offering archery to fourth- through 12-grade students.
The Pine-Strawberry program has produced several talented archers, including Madison McRae, Ellis Cluff and Jason Cluff. However, Cornelius is the school’s first state champion.
“We are proud of her and all the archers’ accomplishments,” Pederson said.