by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Zimmerman Archery Club, under coach Pat Burch, will conclude its eighth season when both the middle school and high school teams compete at nationals in May.
The Thunder middle school team placed fourth and the high school team placed ninth in the National Archery in the School (NASP) state tournament on March 28-29 in Champlin Park, each beating the team score needed to qualify for nationals.
Individually, seventh-grader Clay Sandy was state middle school champ with 290 of 300 and fifth-grader Lyrik Peacock was elementary runner-up with 273 of 290.
Nationals will be held in Louisville, KY, from May 8-11. To qualify, the ZHS middle school scored 3233 at state (the standard is 2899) and the high school shot 3164 (the standard isn 2999).
Burch, also the ZHS wrestling coach, said the club originated in his middle school physical education class in 2007 with 12 to 15 kids.
“It was quickly apparent that the kids were loving it,” said Burch, an enthusiastic sportsman who also serves as a Mille Lacs fishing guide. The club has grown to the current 87 members.
The original group got started using equipment obtained through a grand provided by Minnesota DNR and NASP. They met a couple of Saturdays to practice, then competed in the NASP sate tournament.
The middle school placed second in 2007 when the tournament was much smaller, with about 300 kids. This year’s tournament had almost 1,200 participants, counting elementary, middle school and high school, said Burch.
Two local archery buffs, Chad Levos and Shane Rosby, joined Burch in expanding the archery club during the 2009-10 school year. They have been Burch’s assistants ever since.
With help from the Zimmerman Booster Club, the program began to practice and compete more often. Meanwhile, the NASP program “really began to take off and become very popular,” said Burch.
The NASP season now runs from January through May with several tournaments culminating with the state meet.
Last year, the middle school team qualified for nationals in Kentucky. That event drew over 10,000 participants, said Burch, noting that it’s recognized by Guinness as the largest archery tournament ever.