While Myers Parish sorted through the near-record crowd in the muggy heat at The Premier Sports Campus of Lakewood Ranch on Sunday at the Sunshine State Games archery competition, he was struck by the demographics of the field.
The competition is usually consists of almost entirely adult. For the 900 competition, which helped conclude the Sunshine State Games in the area after two days Sunday, about a quarter of the field fell into the younger cub, youth or young adult divisions. The 900 round format consists of 30 arrows shot at a target 60 yards away in five ends of six arrows, 30 at 50 yards and 30 at 40 yards. With 10 points available per shot the maximum points is 900, hence the name.
The Sarasota Archery Club, which helped organize the event and of which Parish is the treasurer, had hoped to set a record for Sunshine Games participation in the event. Even though the club fell short of that goal, the turnout was still encouraging.
“A lot of kids turned up,” Parish said. “It was a great event for the kids.”
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Parish, a Sarasota resident and a member of Sarasota Archers for 30 years, was at the forefront of the part of archery competition that took place in Manatee County. The event began Saturday at Premier Sports Campus when about 85 competitors came out for the 720 round. For Day 2, that number crept closer to 100.
The 720 round consists of 72 arrows shot in ends of six at 70 yards for 10 points apiece. The maximum available is 720.
At the Sarasota Archery Club in Sarasota, the crowds were smaller. More than 50 turned out Saturday for the field competition and another 40 or so competed Sunday in the 3D event.
The events scheduled for the Sarasota Archers facility were temporarily put in jeopardy early last week when Tropical Storm Colin flooded parts of the course in Sarasota County and brought down branches
“We found room to move things around,” Parish said. “I think everybody had a great time over at the Sarasota Club doing the field rounds.”
Back at Premier Sports Campus, Parish saw the youthful exuberance that comes with the sport’s popularity spike over this decade. Part of the credit for that spike is given to pop culture books and movies, such as “The Hunger Games” and “Game of Thrones.” Although a comprehensive survey hasn’t taken place since 2013, USA Archery memberships had more than doubled at that time as compared to the previous two years.
One of Bradenton’s few archery medalists Sunday fell into the category of recent arrivals to the sport. Bradenton’s Amanda Martinez took home a bronze medal in the cub bowhunter freestyle division.
Most newcomers have a bit of a different story than Parish, who has been one of Sarasota Archers’ most successful competitors. He hunted when he was younger, which naturally evolved into target archery, to which he has shifted nearly all of his focus the past three decades. Parish has won more than 30 state championships, nine Southeast championships and six national titles. He was once named the Archery Shooters Association’s national shooter of the year.
“I’ve done really well with it,” Parish said, “and it’s been good for me.”
So now he wants to give back, helping the Sarasota Archers group increase its 160-member base and spread the word about archery. A weekend playing host to the Sunshine State Games was a strong place to build.