By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Last month students from John Paul II Academy participated in the 2014 National Archery in the Schools Program World Championship held in Madison, Wisc.
The school on Goldsmith Lane placed 22nd out of 52 teams at the July 13 competition. John Paul II was the only school from Louisville to participate in the world tournament, which included teams from Canada and South Africa.
Two John Paul II students scored individual bests among the 3,000 competitors. April Dong ranked sixth out of 139 sixth-grade girls. And, Kyle Sears placed 19th out of 206 eighth-grade boys.
John Paul II Academy is one of numerous schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville that have recently added archery to their slate of athletic offerings.
The National Archery in the Schools Program was introduced as a physical education (P.E.) unit by the Kentucky Departments of Fish & Wildlife Resources and
Department of Education.
About 20 schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville have transformed the P.E. program into a competitive sport offering including: St. Mary, John Paul II, Presentation and Mercy academies; St. Gabriel, St. James (Elizabethtown), St. Gregory (Samuels), Holy Trinity, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Aloysius (Pewee Valley), St. Athanasius, St. Gabriel, St. Leonard, St. Paul and St. Bernard schools; and Bethlehem (Bardstown), Assumption, DeSales, Trinity and St. Xavier high schools.
John Paul II Academy introduced the archery program three years ago under coach Brad Hartley. Thirty-seven students in grades four to eight participated in the archery program at John Paul II.
Father William P. Burks, pastor of St. Pius X Church, applauded the efforts of St. Barnabas, St. Pius X and St. Bartholomew churches — the covenant parishes which support John Paul II Academy — for the support they have given to the archery program.
“We’re honored that all these faith communities honor our school and what we try to do here,” Father Burks said.
Hartley said the archery program has added a great deal to the John Paul II community.
“It creates a wonderful environment within our school community. The NASP program has helped promote student achievement, confidence, self-worth, discipline and responsibility,” he said. “It creates an atmosphere which allows our older students an opportunity to mentor, teach and become young leaders to our younger archers. Students develop relationships and special bonds with others they may have otherwise never had an opportunity to develop.”
Erin Mercke, who has taken over the archery program for one year while Hartley is temporarily relocated to Ohio, said the archery program gives students with no previous athletic experience a chance to participate in a sport.
“We had kids who are not very athletically inclined and big football players who both have exceeded in it,” Mercke said in an interview at the school last week.
“It’s a sport where your scores matter for you and are added together for the team. So it gives a sense of self-accomplishment.”
Hartley said archery puts everyone on an even playing field.
“Regardless of size and gender everyone is required to use the same equipment. It is a sport open to all. Regardless of a child’s physical or cognitive impairments, the sport of archery creates an environment for all to be successful,” he said.
Mercke, whose fifth-grade son James participated in the world championship, said she believes the archery program has staying power.
“I think it helps that it is introduced in a P.E. class. I think the momentum is there for it to be around for a while,” she said.
She noted John Paul II Academy’s parent teacher organization provided the funds to purchase the bows, arrows and additional equipment. In addition, St. Francis of Assisi allowed John Paul II athletes to practice at their gym prior to the world tournament while John Paul II’s gymnasium was being renovated.
St. Gabriel School also started their archery program three years ago. Last season there were 79 students in grades three to eight involved, Tim McGinty, St. Gabriel’s coach, said.
The team from St. Gabriel finished in the top three at every meet and participated in the national competition held in Louisville. St. Gabriel also qualified for the world competition in Madison, Wisc., but decided not to compete.
McGinty said the archery program has been a good experience for his students.
“We have had many (students) that this was the first time they played a team sport,” he added.
Coaches from St. Gabriel also were instrumental in assisting Mercy Academy and Trinity High School with the creation of their archery teams, McGinty said.