New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, MAY 20, 2009:
SOUTH VALLEY ACADEMY WINS STATE ARCHERY CHAMPIONSHIP
ALBUQUERQUE -- Albuquerque's South Valley Academy may be one of New Mexico's smallest high schools, but when it comes to archery, the Dragons are big-league competitors.
This spring, the Dragons finished first through sixth in individual competition and easily won the team title in New Mexico's first National Archery in the Schools State Tournament. Competing against much larger schools in Las Cruces and Raton, the Dragons scored an impressive 3,134 points to win the championship, outdistancing second-place Raton by 509 points.
The 18-member team will receive its trophy at 10:45 a.m. Thursday during the 220-student school's annual awards ceremony.
"The school's success says a lot about the National Archery in the Schools program, and especially the kids themselves," said Brian Guzman, program coordinator for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. The agency brought the program to 15 high schools and middle schools in January 2008, providing training for coaches and splitting the equipment costs with schools. There currently is a waiting list of at least 12 more schools wanting to get in on the fun.
The students at South Valley Academy enjoyed learning a new skill and the success that followed, coach Robert Sierra said.
"We practiced for an hour after school every Tuesday and Friday, and they really had a good time," Sierra said. "Archery becomes addictive because it's a sport that anyone can master quickly. You don't have to be the biggest or the fastest. All it takes is to master the form and you can be a master archer."
Eleventh-grader Joshua Martinez was the individual master in the boys division of the state tournament, scoring 279 points out of a possible 300. His ninth-grade teammates were close behind. Fabian Gonzales scored 276, Nicholas Mier 273, and Gabriel Ochoa 263. Tenth-graders Juan Barragan and Daniel Cano rounded out the top six, each scoring 256. Other Dragons finishing among the top 30 boys were Lorenzo Escarega, 10th; Ivan Comparan, 12th, Ralph Gonzales, 13th; Cesar Balon, 14th; Hilych Armenta, 16th; Sergio Roman, 19th; and Cristian Mazarieqes, 27th.
The Dragon girls team made it a clean sweep, with all five team members finishing at the top. Ninth-grader Daniella Ortega won the individual championship with a score of 272. She was followed by 10th-grader Samantha Martinez, 258; ninth-grader Lurdes Ortiz, 256; 10th-grader Jaylene Fink, 249; and 11th-grader Anissa Lavers, 247.
This year's New Mexico tournament was conducted as a "virtual" tournament in which the actual competition was conducted at individual schools, and then scores were submitted to tournament coordinators. Guzman said he hopes next year's tournament will be a live event with schools competing in one location.
Jeannette Olivas-Gonzales, a school social worker who helped bring the National Archery in the Schools program to South Valley Academy, said the program fit right in with the school's mission to help mostly underprivileged students succeed academically. Most of the students in the lower-valley school are from low-income Hispanic families, many of them recent immigrants.
"Archery gives the kids a chance to succeed in an area outside the classroom, and that's important," Olivas-Gonzales said. "The students had fun and had an awesome performance in the tournament. Being the best at something really boosted their self-esteem."
The Department of Game and Fish spent approximately $20,000 on equipment to get the National Archery in the Schools program off the ground in New Mexico. It costs about $3,000 to outfit a school or organization with bows, targets, backstops and other equipment to get a program started. The Department splits the initial cost with participants and provides training for archery instructors. Many schools incorporate the program into existing physical education classes. Sponsors included the Northern New Mexico Chapter of Safari Club International, and Juandell Eidson of the Eidson Ranch, who donated an antelope hunting authorization for the promotion of youth shooting sports.
Schools or organizations interested in participating in the National Archery in the Schools program can find more information on the Department Web site, www.wildlife.state.nm.us, or by contacting Brian Guzman, (505) 231-4375 or firstname.lastname@example.org.