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Minnesota State Archery Association: Bemidji hosts state archery tourney

Lined up in a long row, competitors shoot at targets during the Minnesota State Archery Association State Championship Saturday at Bemidji State University's Gillett Recreation and Fitness Center. Between 900 and 1,000 shooters were expected to compete in the championship, which continues today in the Rec Center and the John Glas Fieldhouse. Pioneer Photo/Laurie Swenson

Arrows were hitting their marks as the Bemidji Archery Club hosted the Minnesota State Archery Association State Indoor Tournament Saturday at Bemidji State University.

MSAA President Tom Rose estimated that between 900 and 1,000 archers are competing in the two-day tournament, which continues today.

Competition is in the Gillett Recreation and Fitness Center and the John Glas Fieldhouse.

The event is the MSAA's major fundraiser, Rose said.

Shooters qualified for the state competition through regional competitions in February.

"This is it for them," Rose said. "This is the culmination of their season."

Kim Jenniges, MSAA field vice president, was very pleased with the Bemidji site.

"This place is amazing," Jenniges said. "We'd definitely come back to Bemidji."

The competition is going very smoothly, with only minimal issues, she said. "The biggest issue is our third line was 15 minutes late. If that's our biggest issue, we're doing pretty well."

"For this being our first one, I think we're doing a pretty good job," said Bemidji Archery Club member Terri Murray.

Jenniges said that after Redwood Falls, Minn., hosted the state event, "They said, 'When are you coming back?'

"I bet you there's 2,000 people that are coming into town this weekend," she said.

"People don't realize how many people this draws into town," said Bemidji Archery Club member Steve Jaranson. "It brings a lot into this town for this time of year."

Family connection

Family is a big part of archery, many of the shooters said. Murray said her whole family is involved in the sport.

"You can't beat archery as a family sport," Jaranson said. "You can shoot on any level."

James Bergeron said his son, who was involved in 4-H shooting sports, got him involved in archery. They now are part of both 4-H and the Bemidji Archery Club.

"It's very family-friendly," Rose said.

Tadd and Susan Egenes of Benson, Minn., are competing this weekend, along with their daughters, Ashley, 22; Amanda, 16; Aleah, 13; and Allison, 9.

"I shot at 8 o'clock this morning," Susan said. "I did OK - a little better than my usual."

Tadd, who was a bow hunter, got into archery in 1994 or 1995, he said.

"He did one indoor and got us into it," Susan said, adding their oldest daughter started at 8 or 9 years old, while their youngest started at about age 3.

About four years ago, Tadd started the Swift County Archers. He currently serves as president of the club, which is housed in a renovated old building. He also teaches community education archery classes.

"We've got a wonderful group of people in our club," Susan said.

Sheldon Ahrndt has the most years of experience.

"I've been doing it since 1957," he said, when he was 15.

The sport helped his wife, Jan, who was stricken with polio at the age of 2-1/2 and was left physically weakened for many years. Through archery, Jan said, she was able to gain upper body strength.

Katelyn Messner, another club member, is one of the younger shooters in the competition at the age of 6. She has been shooting for a while but this is her first year in league competition, said her parents, Rob and Shelley Messner, who own Page Lake Archery Shop. "They've been a big help to lots of the kids," Sheldon Ahrndt said of the Messners.

"It's fun because I get to do something with my boys," said Shelley Messner, referring to sons Philip, 12, and Andrew, 10. Archery, she said, is easier for her to do with them than football.

Forty-three members of the club are competing in the state tournament, but with supporters also making the trip and sitting on the sidelines, the club is bringing more than twice that number to Bemidji for the weekend, club members said.

Local flavor

A number of Bemidji athletes were at BSU for the state indoor tournament, including Lisa and Warren Wilcox and their children, son Wyatt, 20, and daughters Nickel, 15, and Autumn, 10.

"I've been shooting since age 5," Nickel said. She started competing a few years later.

"My husband is a bow hunter," Lisa said. "When we were engaged, we shot leagues together."

Later, Warren and Wyatt competed together, and by the time Autumn was 3, Lisa got the girls into the sport as well.

"It's a family-oriented sport," said Lisa, who took third in her flight Saturday morning. The family is very competitive, but they don't compete against one another, Lisa said.

"We've taken the kids to West Virginia for the world championships," she said, where Wyatt took a second and third place and Nickel had a ninth-place finish.

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