Locals ready archery skills for national stage

LEWISTOWN – On Monday, the Shawnee Archers club was home to the sound of arrows released by Anthony Schifano and Caleb Druckenmiller zipping through the air and landing with a soft thud in the targets about 50 yards away.

Schifano and Druckenmiller, members of the Mifflin County 4-H Club, were getting some practice in before the 4-H meeting began. And Saturday, when the young men take off for the 4-H Archery National Invite in Green Island, Neb., they will probably be glad for any extra practice shots they could get along the way.

Schifano and Druckenmiller have both qualified for the national tournament – an event in which 4-H members can compete only once – but to watch the two Monday, their poise didn’t reveal any nerves about the upcoming event.

Both archers demonstrated calm during practice as they notched their bows and took pause before releasing each shot. Schifano, a junior at Mifflin County High School, and Druckenmiller, a senior, both said they are feeling confident about the tournament, and hopefully this poise will carry into the multiple day tournament that will feature three different events.

Although the boys said they would show up at the tournament Saturday and spend Sunday practicing, the competitive events will last Monday through Wednesday, with an awards ceremony Thursday. The three competitive events, including a FITA competition – a field course and a 3-D course – will test the archers in different ways.

FITA – now known as World Archery – stands for Federation International de Tir l’Arc. From a competition standpoint, it refers to a form of target shooting competition used in international and world championship events.

In each event, there will be winners in both individual and team categories. Schifano said last year the tournament saw about 200 competitors and he expects this year will have teams from 40 different states.

In a FITA event the competitors shoot at a target located on the end of the range beginning at 60 meters away, then moving in each round at 50, 40 and then 30 meters. In the field course competititors will move through the course shooting at targets arranged at various distances with four arrows to a target. The 3-D course includes animal shaped targets and is the only event in which the distances to each target are not marked.

Although both archers said the number of tournements in which they get to compete is small compared to the hours of practice they put in, Druckenmiller said he gets lots of unofficial competition from 3-D open shoots.

“We have to practice a lot. I go to 3-D shoots every now and then, but they’re not really a competition. They’re open shoots,” he said.

Druckenmiller said he has been involved in 4-H for six years, although he started shooting long before that time.

“(My dad) got me into shooting when I was really little,” he said. “He took me shooting, and I’ve been out ever since.”

Schifano has also been at the sport for a while, saying he’s been involved the past eight years. The archer also credited a mentor with sparking his interest in the sport.

“Actually, our national coach, ‘Cowboy’ (Chris Setzler), his mom just called my dad on the phone and said, ‘Hey, your son should try this,’ and eight years later here we are,” he said.

Earlier in the year, the boys’ experience paid off at the Penn State 4-H Achievement Days, through which they were able to qualify for the national tournament. In the FITA-style tournament the top four out of the state qualified for the national team. Schifano landed second in the event, and Druckenmiller followed at fourth.

After their practice shots Monday, both archers needed to help lead the 4-H meeting, which included elementary aged youngsters all the way up through teenagers. Schifano said during the winter, the club had about 100 members in attendance, and that Mifflin County 4-H shooting sports in general is very large.

And regardless of the turnout at the national tournament, both archers have their involvment in the 4-H club to keep them busy. Schifano already has his junior instructor qualification so that, under adult supervision, he is able to instruct the younger members of the club. Druckenmiller also said he is planning to get his adult instructor certification.

“That’s pretty much what 4-H is about,” Schifano said. “Teaching and helping out the younger kids learn the new skills.”