Rocky Heights Middle School is right on target with the birth of its archery program.
After receiving a grant from the Easton Foundation to launch the program, the school became the first in Douglas County to shoot its collective arrows skyward and even hosted the Olympic Archery in Schools state competition April 2o.
“It took a little while to get things in motion, but the turnout and the involvement has been just overwhelming,” said head coach Rodney Graham. “With ‘Hunger Games,’ movies like ‘Brave’ coming out, with the Olympics — which I think was probably the biggest draw — I figured we would get a pretty good pull and we did.”
When the program was initiated in January, Graham and assistant coach Dave Calloway had 150 students express interest in participating. Sixty of those showed a commitment to sticking with it, but the program only had room for 32 students.
“We took what we could,” Graham said. “We did a lottery drawing and pulled kids’ names out of a hat and did it that way.”
For those who had their names drawn, not only have they had an opportunity to participate in a handful of tournaments over the past few months, but they can look forward to continuing the sport when they move up to Rock Canyon High School in a couple years, as there is a planned program in the works.
Thanks to a second grant request to Easton written by Graham, there is also an elementary program already underway at Rocky Heights’ feeder schools.
Not taking the two gifts from Easton lightly — the foundation provides all the necessary equipment and targets — the Rocky Heights club decided to pay it forward and raised $5,500 at a tournament in early April for the Wounded Warrior Project, a national nonprofit that assists wounded veterans.
Graham, who also teaches archery for the Highlands Ranch Community Association, hopes to see other area schools follow suit to increase competition and camaraderie.
“It’s really fun to see the mix of kids that go for this,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of kids that do the traditional sports, and then we have some other kids where traditional sports aren’t their thing. They’ve really embraced archery.”
Seventh-graders Ally Pfeiffer and Jacob Buras both compete in other sports, but each is thrilled about the opportunity to partake.
“I had done it a couple times at Girl Scout camp and I really enjoyed it, so I decided to come out,” said Ally. “I think it’s really cool that we are the only school that does this, and the fact that we can come into the gym and shoot arrows is a lot of fun.”
“I personally like hunting, so it feels kind of natural,” added Jacob, who plays hockey, baseball and football and ranks archery second right behind hockey. “If it’s a sport and it’s competitive I’m in it. ... I just love it, it’s so much fun.”