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Young archers take aim

By jhornberg
Aug. 6, 2010 at 3:06 a.m.

Justin Holcomb, 14, of Moulton aims at a target about 40 feet away. Holcomb has 10 years experience handling a bow.

Collin Klimitchek was showing some of the best in archery what he was capable of doing.

Engaged in a battle for the top spot with shooters from other countries, the 14 year old from Victoria surged out ahead of several top shooters from countries like Taiwan and South Korea at the Target Championships in Hamilton, Ohio, one of two locals who competed.

But as he took his shots, he said he found out that, no matter the nationality, there's still some symbols and sign language that is pretty universal.

"You learn that everyone uses the same sign language, and not the best kind for sure," said the 14-year-old from Victoria.

Gestures aside, Klimitchek had done well the first day and maintained his performance the second day. But it was those trailing him that stepped up their game, improving on their scores to eventually catch up to him.

Getting beat isn't what mattered, said archery coach Tom Barker. It was that he turned in one of his best performances.

"He was in second place against one of the Taiwanese kids," Barker said. "And I talked to him after he finished third, and said 'Dude, you shot great, you just got beat.' The other kid just stepped it up.

"He still came away with it pleased with how he had shot, and he just ran into someone who was stronger."

Klimitchek is one of many from the Crossroads area who hit the target in terms of archery competition this summer.

Nineteen members went to the Junior Olympic Archery Development, or JOAD, national archery tournament in Des Moines, bringing in 20 medals. Others made trips to international competitions in Hungary.

All of these kids take time ot practice through a programs at the Straight Arrow, an indoor archery range run by Tom Barker and Gene Kacir.

Barker said that it is rarely is about the performance for the participants. Rather, it's about the journey to that point.

"The journey is more important than the destination, but they will remember the trip there and back, and the people they met," he said.

Darrell Klimitchek, Collin's father, said the experience was invaluable for his son if he wants to continue competing.

"It's the first time he'd been in a competition with international shooters," he said. "I was glad to see him have the opportunity to shoot against international competition."

Collin Klimitchek, who took first in his age group, said the results were irrelevant, it was the experience that meant the most.

"It was fun, but there were some times where the pressure gets to you, but you have to think positive," he said.

That sentiment was echoed by many of the archers.

Two of the younger participants, Holly Gaskamp, 11, and Heather Barthels, 12, said they talked about one of the friends they made at a national meet, named Miriam from Shreveport, La.

Both said they know a lot of other kids who shoot, and they try to get together at the national meets.

"At every national tournament, we all get together and have fun," Holly said. "You meet a lot of people that aren't from where you are that you don't know, but they are really nice."

Added Heather: "We all try to stay at the same hotels so we can see each other."

There are also stories of kids who have come back to archery after years away. Heather Barthels said she was first introduced to the sport when she was young, left it and picked it back up again in the last few years.

Justin Holcomb, 14-year-old from Moulton shot for years when he was younger, but stopped competing when he was eight. He said he decided to start gearing up for competitions again four months ago.

"I took a break for about six years," he said. "I loved it, and I still shot around the house. Just not in competition."

He has an opportunity to go to the JOAD national tournament in Iowa, but declined.

"I didn't think I was ready," he said. "Mr. Barker said I was, but I didn't think I was."

One of the keys for archery is the discipline many of the children participating pick up, Barker said, who said parental involvement plays a key role in the sport.

He said archery is a three-legged stool, needing a child who wants to do it, parents willing to make it happen and good coaching.

"The parents, many of them don't shoot, but they have made this commitment to their kids and it gives them leverage," he said.

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