With the popularity of the book and film "The Hunger Games" and the recent exposure from the Olympic Games, interest in archery is soaring.
And while only a modest crowd materialized for Sunday's Illinois Target Archery Association Outdoor State Championship at the Wheaton Rifle Club in West Chicago, participation in the event is up and those who attended expressed a desire to explore the sport.
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The archers ranged from former national champions to those either taking up the sport for the first time or renewing an acquaintance with it.
Nancy Zorn of Warrenville competes nearly every weekend and has been heavily involved in the sport for 31 years. She has won nine national championships, made seven U.S. world teams and has won one world championship.
"You're only competition is yourself, really. You don't depend on anyone else. You're really not shooting against anyone else. You're shooting only for yourself," she said.
Archers shoot 90 arrows, trying to get a perfect score of 10 on each shot and a total perfect score of 900, which is the equivalent of bowling's 300. Havel said 30 arrows at 40, 50 and 60 meters each are shot. Categories are based on age and gender and bow style.
"These setups are pretty much exactly what you would see in the Olympic Games," ITAA President Tom Havel said of the recurved bow setups.
Contestant Chris Petro, 43, of Naperville, said he started shooting when he was 5 in his grandfather's backyard. He stopped in his teenage years, but took up the sport again after his son, Daniel, 14, expressed an interest. Father and son competed together Sunday.
Ellie Dunham and her husband, Harvey Dunham, were on hand Sunday to observe. Ellie said she recently began shooting and she and her husband have taken a class for active adults through the DuPage County Forest Preserve. She said she is considering competing next year.
"For now, I'm only shooting 20 meters at the most, and they're shooting, like, 50. So my arrows would land in the grass, well short," she said.
She said she likes quiet sports like sailing, and archery fits into that pattern.
For Harvey, an interest in archery is an outgrowth of his involvement in other shooting sports. "I have been a hunter my whole life," he said.
Havel said the number of contestants has risen from 22 to 36, which reflects the growing interest in the sport, a phenomenon that is manifesting itself locally in such events as the rededication of the archery range at the Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville.
"It certainly is growing with the adults. It's booming with the kids," Havel said. "Our kid programs cannot keep pace."
He credited the films "The Hunger Games" and "Brave."
"Kids are watching the Olympics," he added.
Next year, Havel said, the state tournament might even have to find a different location because of an even larger field than this year.