By Matt Mauney | Associate Editor
Every afternoon, in the Arthur Boring Civic Center on the Strawberry Festival grounds, 30-plus Tomlin Middle School students gather to test their archery skills.
Beginning today at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, the Plant City group will be among young archers from across the country and around the world during the fourth annual National Archery in the Schools Program World Tournament.
The Tomlin program began about six years ago, two years prior to the first world tournament. Coach David Sweat has been involved with archery competitions for many years.
“The kids love it,” Sweat said. “We’ll have anywhere from 18 to 45 or 50 kids come out each day and shoot.”
Sweat said turnout has increased dramatically over the years. This year, he expects to take 24 of his archers to the tournament.
The program earned money for the tournament by helping with parking during the annual Strawberry Festival.
“That pays for their registration fee, which is $25,” Sweat said.
There are a few other NASP programs in Hillsborough County, but Tomlin will be the only to compete at this year’s World Tournament and one of just seven teams in the state. The competition will include teams from across the country, Canada and South Africa.
Sweat said the experience the kids will get participating in a competition of this magnitude is a treat.
“We practice with 10 targets here, and there, they have 50 targets,” he said.
The Tomlin program features a mixture of girls and boys. Female archers Erin Cisneros and Layne Pullen insist the sport “isn’t just for boys.”
“I found out about it at orientation for school and have been involved ever since,” Pullen said.
Dennis Pawlowski, a Plant City police officer for 18 years, has helped as an assistant coach for the program when he is able. His son, Noah, entered Tomlin three years ago.
“It’s all uniform equipment, so all the equipment you see here is the same equipment that all other schools involved with the National Archery in the Schools Program is using,” Pawlowski said. “They use the same arrows, same distances and same targets, so when they go to the World Tournament or state tournament, everything is consistent. It puts everybody on an even playing field, and the kids seem to really respond to it.”
Pawlowski started Trinity Special Sports Ministry in 2006 and also launched an archery program through that ministry.
Pawlowski’s son, Noah, an eighth-grader, is currently ranked 10th in the state in his age group and is the record-holder within the Tomlin program. Noah hit a 271 at last year’s World Tournament and has a goal of 280 this time. Each competitor gets five shots each at distances of 10 and 15 meters to score the best out of 300 points.
“We love this program, and the kids love it, so we hope it continues to grow here and in the county and state,” Sweat said.
The Tomlin team also will be participating in the state tournament in January.
Contact Matt Mauney at firstname.lastname@example.org