CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's state scholastic archery tournament will be a little tougher to get into this year.
After seven years of allowing anyone who wished to shoot to participate in the annual event, Division of Natural Resources officials have decided to require entrants to qualify in "virtual tournaments" held throughout the state.
Krista Snodgrass, the DNR's Archery in the Schools coordinator, said agency officials had several reasons for making the change.
"Last year, we had 650 shooters at the state tournament," she said. "That's about as many as we could physically handle in a one-day event. Putting on the tournament requires a ton of volunteer help, and last year we were maxed out."
The tournament grew dramatically during its first seven years. The first event, held in 2005 at the Capital High School gymnasium, drew just 180 shooters, but as more schools incorporated Archery in the Schools into their physical education classes, participation skyrocketed. This year, with pre-tournament qualifying in effect, Snodgrass expects about 500 shooters to earn entry into the March 23 competition.
"Another reason for requiring shooters to qualify is that we can avoid having the state tournament be an adverse experience," Snodgrass said. "In past years we've had situations in which relatively inexperienced shooters were paired against shooters who were really good, in a big facility in front of a big crowd.
"We don't want kids coming in and looking bad. Archery in the Schools is supposed to encourage students to make archery a lifelong pastime. We don't want them to get so discouraged they give up on it."
Snodgrass said the qualifying tournaments would also let students unable to afford the expense of traveling to Charleston experience competition closer to home.