By Todd Fuqua
MESCALERO – The snap of the bow, the hiss of the arrow flying through the air, the satisfying “thwack” of the shaft finding it’s mark.
Those are the sounds heard in the auxiliary gym every afternoon at Mescalero High School, as the Apache Bowbenders are getting ready for their time in the spotlight.
The team – newly formed this season – has made great strides in finding the target as part of the National Archery in the Schools Program.
They’re hoping those strides will take them to victory at the New Mexico State Championship March 8 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. A good showing there could get some Mescalero students on the state team and a chance to compete at the national tournament in May at Louisville, Kent.
“The kids are really competitive,” said Godfrey Cordova, who – along with athletic director Pat Garcia – is serving as a coach of the squad. “We’ve been going through a bunch of different games to vary the practice and help them sharpen their skills.”
Cordova and Garcia had to attend classes in Albuquerque to become certified NASP instructors. As a result of their dedication, the state’s Game and Fish Department donated all 20 Junior Olympic bows, arrows, targets and other equipment for the team.
That’s about $170 worth of equipment, and the students are making good use of it.
“We started this is late October, and we had to go through safety training with them before we even got any bows,” Cordova said.
Some students, like Melyssa Zuazua, had never even picked up a bow before this year.
“It was fun to see how good you can shoot,” Zuazua said. “The first time, I was pretty horrible, but now I’m consistent and keeping my arrows together.”
The commitment to safety permeates everything about the program. The competition is very regimented, with competitors taking shots from 10 and 15 meters and points awarded based on how close to the center of the targets students can hit. A perfect round is 300 points.
Some of them are pretty good.
“If the zombie apocalypse happened tomorrow, we’d survive,” quipped Kaline Chino-Fernando, who regularly scores in the high 200s in each round.
Nine boys and seven girls will be chosen to represent the Bowbenders at the state tournament. The top 12 archers from across the state – at least four girls – will then be eligible for the national competition.
Members of the archery class at Mescalero are: Robert Geronimo, Kaline Chino-Fernando, Ian Murphy, Quinn Saenz, Alex Kazhe-Kirgin, Dalton Hamilton, Jadob Dankei, Eric Shanta, B.J. Smith, Sky Poncho, Melyssa Zuazua, Alexis Guydelkon, Deandra Chimal, Devin Hanks, Nellia Enjady and Ashley Kinzhuma.