COOK - When it comes to promoting the National Archery in Schools Program, Mountain Iron-Buhl archery coach Dan Violette is second to none.
But it didn’t take much convincing on his part to get Will Kleppe and his wife Tara Kleppe-Fierke to start a program in the Cook school.
They were hooked soon after their children took part in one of Violette’s community education archery classes last year.
“It just took off from there,” said Will.
In a hurry.
In fact, not even a year after launching the program in the district, Cook hosted the first area archery tournament of the year last Saturday.
About 207 students from five schools and one home school program participated in the one-day event, and it was the first chance for Cook’s 35 archers to shoot competitively against other teams.
“The kids are so enthusiastic about it from the co-ed aspect and because it is a level playing field,” Kleppe said. “We’ve got a good mix of kids who are in other sports and kids where this is the only thing they really enjoy.”
Kleppe said Violette, the Region II Coordinator, has been instrumental in helping to get the program started but added that once it was up and rolling things moved forward very smoothly.
“It went well. We were nervous being we never had (a tournament) before and we were going to have 207 kids come through the door,” said Fierke-Kleppe. “And our kids hadn’t been to a meet. But I think it motivated them to want to do more.”
Kleppe said Violette and his wife Luann Violette, Fierke-Kleppe, Jesse and Chrystal Scofield, and Don and Deb Bachel, and members of the Cook Lion’s Club all helped put on Saturday’s event.
Teams came from MI-B, Hill City, Assumption School in Hibbing, Grand Rapids and North Country Archers, and everything went off without any noticeable hitches, Kleppe said.
“(The other teams) were being competitive but they are very supportive. We didn’t know what to expect on Saturday,” he said. “There was an overall sense of cooperation between the kids. Our kids had never shot against another team but the other kids were nothing but encouraging.”
And part of the appeal of the sport, Fierke-Kleppe said, is the camaraderie across a wide variety of students.
“What I like is it encompasses all different kids. We don’t pull in any specific type of student. It’s something they can be successful at,” she said.
Kleppe said he feels one of the reasons the sport is gaining popularity is because it’s challenging in a different way than traditional sports.
“Personally, for me it’s a lot like golf, you’re never going to master it and you’re never going to be perfect. It motivates these kids because you are competing against yourself,” Kleppe said. “Also, it’s relatively laid back. You learn the rules and the safety issues and then it’s easy going.”
Both Kleppe and his wife said they are pleased with the amount of students who have joined the program so far and that things are moving forward very smoothly.
“Just taking the initial steps (is the hard part). Once it’s up and going it really takes care of itself,” Kleppe said, adding that all the help Cook has gotten along the way has also been a key to the program’s success.
One of those sources of help has been the Sturgeon River Chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, which donated money to both the Cook program and the MI-B program, Kleppe said.
“As far as equipment and replacement costs we were very, very fortunate that (they) chose to give the MI-B and Cook programs $750 each,” Kleppe said. “Organizations like that, that are willing to contribute, are instrumental in keeping us going.”