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W.Va. Archery in the Schools tourney to proceed, despite COVID’s slings and arrows

A select group of West Virginia’s elementary, middle and high school students this week will draw back on the fundamental and the elemental, too.

“You have to stay calm and remember your training,” Jeremiah Parsons said.

Parsons is talking about the students competing this week in West Virginia’s annual Archery in the Schools tournament, which is hosted by the Division of Natural Resources.

Because of COVID concerns, the archers won’t be shoulder-to-shoulder this year.

From their respective schools, they’ll shoot virtually, with the electronic submission of their scores to follow.

Arrows will course to the haystack targets Thursday through Saturday of this week.

Parsons, meanwhile, is a world-class archer who lives in Vienna, Wood County.

He won two world championships, in fact, as a WVU student.

One of those wins was at the 2015 International Bowhunting Championship in Parma, Ohio, where he drew back the bow 40 times – and found the bullseye 32 times.

Parsons appreciates archery, he said, for what he calls “the mental management” of it all.

Never mind the Zen of standing stock-still during the very physical act of aiming.

As far as the cardio tension-and-release, one can burn up to 150 calories during 30 minutes of continual shooting, fitness experts say.

You’ll have that Parsons said, when you’re constantly drawing back on a bow with a 60-pound pressure.

Never mind staring down a pie-sized target from roughly the length of a football field, he said.

“I like to say it’s 90% mental,” said Parsons, who also made the collegiate World Cup team in his sport as a student.

He later ended up coaching the WVU archery team for a time while still in Morgantown.

“You must control the equipment and your body in a calm and accurate manner,” he said.

“There can be no shakes.”

Which, Kayla Donathan says, simply sounds like a good attitude to have – be it in the archery arena, or otherwise.

Donathan is a DNR public information specialist who coordinates the tournament every year.

Before the pandemic drew back its bow, as many as 600 students would collectively take a foot-stance for the tournament, which is normally held on the Marshall University campus in Huntington when there isn’t a competing pandemic.

Coronavirus concerns last year forced the DNR to scrap the tournament altogether, she said.

“This year, it’s like everything else,” she said. “We just want to make it as normal as we can for our kids.”

While also turning in a bow-and-arrow teachable moment of the Robin Hood kind, she said.

Sort of, anyway.

That is, she said, she doesn’t expect any poor coach to rob from another whose team is richer in points.

“Our coaches are very honorable,” she said. “We know everything will be accurate and fair.”

She’s even hoping for some drama of the good kind.

“Archery is the kind of sport where an eighth-grade girl can outshoot the starting quarterback of the football team,” she said.