AZTEC — Students and adults from around San Juan County put their skills to the test during the inaugural Koogler Archery Tournament.

Participants lined up in the C.V. Koogler Middle School gym Saturday afternoon to compete for medals and trophies and raise money. Proceeds from the tournament will go toward buying new archery equipment and sending eighth-grader Brad Canion to the National Archery in Schools Program nationals in Kentucky. Canion won first place at the state championship in February.

At a table set up near the gym entrance, Brad's mother, Sarah Canion, sold raffle tickets for prizes donated by area businesses and members of the community, including a homemade afghan blanket and a Chili's restaurant gift card.

"He's such a good student, and he works very hard at everything. He's a perfectionist," said Sarah Canion. "It's nice for him to work so hard and be rewarded for what he has worked hard at."

Brad Canion competed against other students in the fourth- through eighth-grade archery session, including three students from Hermosa Middle School in Farmington. The second session in the evening was for any participant at least 16.

During one round of competition, participants shot 15 arrows at a target 10 meters away. And then they shot 15 arrows from 15 meters away. A perfect score all 30 arrows hitting the bull's eye was 300 points. The same setup is used for state and national archery tournaments.

Koogler archery coach Wes LePlant said Brad scored 273 points at state to win first place. If Brad can score at least 285 points at nationals, he could qualify for the world championship in June at Walt Disney World, LePlant said.

"He's got a chance to make it," LePlant said. "He's shot (285 points) before here in the gym."

While LePlant ran the competition, Jean Mataalii, the Koogler dean of students and athletic director, helped with registration.
Aztec students compete in an archery competition on Saturday at Koogler Elementary School.
Aztec students compete in an archery competition on Saturday at Koogler Elementary School. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

Mataalii said she loved how the archery program opens up a new avenue for more students to compete in a team sport. Plus, it provides opportunities for students to learn about patience and focus, she said.

"It brings in a lot of kids that don't participate in athletics," Mataalii said. "It's very structured and (students) have to have patience and tolerance and focus. It's a totally different thing outside the realm of academics."

Patience was one thing Koogler student Shelby Bradford said she has gained since joining the archery club.

"I know to be patient with the school work I do," Bradford said. "I used to hurry through it because I had track practice but now I know, if I pace myself and be patient, it's going to help you in the end."

Bradford said she had only tried archery twice before attempting it during gym class, where she discovered she loved the challenge presented by hitting the bull's eye.

"You have to find out where to aim the arrow in order to get it to the target, and you have to try different shooting patterns to hit the bullseye," Bradford said. "You really have to know where you want to aim and what your power skill is."

Once school is out in May, Bradford said she was eager to try hunting with a bow and arrow.

Sarah Canion repeatedly mentioned focus as she talked about the changes she has seen in her son as he became more involved in archery. She said that Brad's GPA increased when he became involved with the club.

"It has definitely helped him become more organized and less careless about things," Sarah said. "My son has always had a bow since he was itty-bitty, but he was never in any organized competition and it's helped him spread his wings and try new things."

Joshua Kellogg can be reached at; 505-564-4627. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.