Right about now there are four very excited teens from Schroon Lake Central School who can’t wait for Thursday to roll around.
Seniors Megan Hall and Shannon Garland, sophomore Derek DeZalia, and 8th grader Ben Wisser, will be on their way to the National Archery In Schools Program’s (NASP) National Archery Competition in Louisville, Kentucky.
The four teens ranked in the top 6 and with other SLSC students ranking 11 in the top 50 – out of 607 competitors – an outstanding achievement for a school with a population of around 250!
Years of practice, sheer determination, skill and talent got them this far in the program, run by SLSC’s Physical Education teacher Michael Sharp, who has been the champion of NASP since 1999. This year there were 18 kids in the program.
But once the students qualified for the Nationals – how were they going to get there? That became the sole focus of Craig DeZalia, father of Derek and another archer, Dawson.
Craig said that up until this year, the program was a little off the radar at the school, and was not considered an extracurricular activity. (Update Wednesday: SchroonLaker has since learned that archery is taught in Phys Ed Classes)
“Until, they (the school) saw the high scores the kids were getting this year, that’s when the school and school board took notice,” Craig told Schroon Laker today.
Craig said there was talk of fund raising, but time was running out to get enough money together before the deadline to commit to going to Kentucky.
“I made up my mind I was going to give it my best shot and get them every last darn nickel I could.
“So I took it in my own hands and went door to door. I went from one end of town to the other and collecting them enough money so they are going.”
Craig says he raised around $4,000 in about a week.
“When I started I had made up my mind if we can’t get enough money for everyone let’s send the seniors. It wound up that everyone in Schroon Lake pulled together.
“I am pretty proud of these kids, but I had quite a time of it fund raising. I am more proud of the people of Schroon Lake for getting these kids down there.
Craig, a heavy highway construction worker, for the DA Collins Company, had never undertaken anything like this.
“Oh, it was really an experience. I went down and spoke at the Fish and Game Club board of directors and I thought it was the local boys I know.
“When I get down there, there were 30 people I didn’t know. They handed me the microphone and introduced me as the guest speaker. My blood pressure skyrocketed at that moment.
“I had $250 in checks when I walked out the door and the Fish and Game Club gave me $800. No one knew I could get this together".
The SLCS Booster Club gave each student $400 which will cover their airfares. Mr. Wisser will accompany them on their trip. Craig and his younger son Dawson will be driving down Wednesday.
The school had already planned to send Michael Sharp to check out the program for next year, so he will be on hand to coach the kids.
The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) is a cooperative effort between state conservation departments, school systems and private organizations to help engage young citizens in outdoor activities and participate in the enduring sport of archery.
The DEC oversees the program in New York State, which promotes student education, physical education, and lifelong participation in archery.
Since its inception in March 2002, more than 4 million students at over 8,500 schools located in 47 states and 5 countries have participated in NASP. New York was the 44th state to implement the program and school participation continues to grow each year.
In Kentucky, our archers will be competing amongst 10,800 other archers from around the country.
Congrats to Craig, Mr. Sharp, all of the archers, the folks at SLCS and of course the wonderful and generous people of the greater Schroon area.