PELION, S.C. — Pelion Elementary School has won the archery state championship.
Maddison Snuffer, a fifth grader at Pelion Elementary School, says she got involved with archery because she wanted to do something new and thought it would be fun.
"I shot a bow and arrow whenever I was younger but nothing like this," said Snuffer. "My grandpa, he shot a bow so I wanted to take after him."
Snuffer has been involved with the archery program for the past two years. She believes it takes a lot of practice and patience to do well in archery.
Jayden Taylor, a fifth grader at the school, says he wanted to try a new sport.
"It's like a good sport to do. You make new friends and you get to be part of a team," said Taylor.
Colby Coulter, the coach for the Pelion Elementary Archery Team and the P.E. teacher for the school, says they starting building the program for three years.
"Our first year, we were alright. We did good. Finished ninth in the state," said Coach Coulter. "The next year we brought some kids in who had some experience now from their first year of competing and we set the bar a little bit higher."
While last year the team was aiming to finish in the top three in the state, they weren't able to see where they would end up because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"This year, my kids from last year, came back with a chip on their shoulder and said we feel like we should have won the tournament last year," explained Coach Coulter. "So they grabbed the fourth graders and said we've got something good going and they taught them work ethic and the team comradery that we have together and they set a goal of being a state champion and they took it over from the beginning."
This year looked a lot different for how kids were able to practice because of the pandemic. Last year the team would practice an hour and a half four times a week, and hold a 30 minute practice session in the morning. This year, they had to split the team into two practice groups and only got about a quarter of the practice time they were used to.
Lexington County School District One said in an email, "The National Archery in the School Program allows students and instructors to remove their masks when shooting their bows. Because the bow is pulled back towards the mouth, the mask could get caught in the bow and cause injury. If they are not actively practicing, students and instructors wear masks."
Recently the team went to compete for a state title. After a lot of hard work and determination, Taylor and Snuffer finished first in their individual competitions and the team finished first in the state.
"Knowing that I got first in state is very exciting and I never knew that I would get this far in it," explained Snuffer. "It means a lot to our team. It's very exciting."
"I'm proud of myself for doing that good to win," explained Taylor. "(The coach) told me to focus and never get nervous and never think of all the people behind you. Just focus on the target on what you're shooting at."
While it's a great accomplishment to win the state title, the team isn't finished yet.
"State championship was great because that's something that we've really wanted for the last two years," said Coach Coulter. "Now that we've grabbed that, the goal is to move on to nationals. We've been ranked in the Top 10 pretty much all year."
The virtual tournament will be on May 1st at Carolina Springs Middle School. If they qualify out of there, they'll go to Myrtle Beach for the first face-to-face tournament for the year in June.
The coach is proud to see what his team has accomplished and wants to continue to teach them life lessons along the way.
"They've been able to see that if they put hard work into something, that they're able to do something that's bigger than themselves and bigger than just the team, but a full community," said Coach Coulter.
The coach says he wants to thank community partners for helping the club and program get to where they are now.