CEDAR CITY – The poetic arc of an archer’s arrow in flight is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful things in sports.
Archers took to the Centrum Field at Southern Utah University Saturday to compete in the archery portion of the Utah Summer Games.
Archery was the first sport registered for the Utah Summer Games when Gerald Sherratt – Southern Utah University’s president from 1982 to 1997 – began the games in 1986.
The sport has been a part of the Summer Games ever since.
Larry Smith, who is the USG archery event coordinator, has been involved with the sport for years, along with as his wife, Randi Smith, who currently coaches the United States Paralympic Archery team. She was not able to attend the Summer Games as the team was competing in the Czech Republic.
Smith is confined to a wheelchair after an accident at 16 caused him to be an ambulatory quadriplegic, allowing little use in all his limbs, but no competitive use in any.
In describing the experience Smith said: “I broke my neck drinking beer, chasing girls and climbing mountains.”
The accident led him to pick up a bow and arrow, which eventually set him on a path for life. And though he has given up archery shooting himself, Smith continues to be an ardent supporter of the majestic sport.
“I started shooting because I was in a wheelchair, so it was a sport that I could do where I could compete and I could have people that were doing the same thing that I was doing with kind of the same abilities that I had,” Smith said. “It turned out to be just a very enjoyable thing. It gave my mind something to do and it led into starting a business, starting an archery club and running target events. It’s just a really enjoyable time.”
Smith said his favorite part of the sport is watching arrows fly. He doesn’t care about the scoring.
“Archery is for anybody who wants to shoot an arrow,” he said. “There seems to be a fascination that surrounds that opportunity. You have people that come from all different kinds of jobs, all different kinds of personal experience, they all have different equipment, they all shoot differently. But they’re all the same family, because they’re all archers.”
A new member to the archer family was 10-year-old Kameron Jones from Vernal, competing in his first archery competition ever. Although Jones was new, spectators looked on at his natural talent for the sport.
When asked what sport Jones wanted to participate in, basketball, baseball or football did not seem to enter the conversation, but archery was an instant favorite.
“He just likes archery and this year we talked about different sports of what he wants to do,” Bruce Jones, Kameron’s father, said. “We talked a little about archery and he said he wanted to do archery.”
Kameron said he enjoys the sport and the Summer Games because he likes to participate in anything involving the outdoors.
The bright green of Kameron Jones’ arrows could be seen whizzing down his lane with his new equipment, recently purchased for competition.
The archery competition also attracted long-time participants that were happy to see newcomers.
Ed Eliason, now residing in New Harmony, has a long heritage in the sport as he placed fifth in the 1972 Olympics in archery, and has competed on 36 world teams, allowing him to travel the world.
Not only was Eliason shooting at a further distance target than the majority of the competitors, but the difference of his bow also set him apart.
Typically the competition used a compound bow – a modern bow that uses a levering system, allowing the pressure to ease when the bow reaches its draw-force peak. Eliason, along with a few others in competition, used a recurve bow – forcing the archer to hold the draw-force with no relief until released.
Although compound bows are legal for world championship competition, they may not be used at the Olympic games. Only recurve bows are allowed.
Eliason is no stranger to the Olympics, but the Summer Games acts as a training opportunity and Olympic competition for young competitors.
“It’s probably one of the better training grounds for kids,” Eliason said. “If you go to the opening ceremonies and you see the fireworks and you walk in and the kids are on the track, it’s no different from the Olympic games.”
Archery competition resumes Sunday, wrapping up the 29th year of the Utah Summer Games.
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