CLARK, NJ - More than 80 people attended the Olympic Archery Clinic at Oak Ridge Park last evening to learn about and take a turn at archery. Held at the Union County Archery Range, the event was part of New Jersey Olympics Week, a grassroots effort to highlight Olympic sports. It was one of several events in the area leading up to Olympic Day 2014 on June 23.
Olympic Day is an international event held annually to promote fitness and highlight the Olympic ideals of fair play, perseverance, respect and sportsmanship every year. New Jersey Olympic Week organizer Andrew Bondarowicz said the goal of the local events is to generate interest and encourage participation in some of the smaller Olympic sports. “We tell people to find what you have a passion for and get good at it,” said Bondarowicz.
The events draw attention to local resources and enable smaller programs to grow and formalize as more people become aware of them. Bondarowicz explained that the events are also a way to notice and appreciate the daily efforts of Olympic sport athletes who train constantly yet are only in the news during an Olympic year.
Sharing pointers and showing off his style was Yuji Sugimoto. This young archer is ranked 10th in the United States in the Cadet age division. He is a junior at the Union County Magnet High School and is starting to look for colleges that meet both his academic and archery ambitions. He trains daily, shooting up to 150 arrows per day, under the direction of Coach Mike Usherenko of the NJ School of Archery.
Proving that archery is an ageless sport, several senior Olympic athletes were on hand to demonstrate their skill. Lelia Nelson, the 2011 winner of the National Archery Senior Olympics, took up the sport in 2006 when tennis became too strenuous of an activity. Fernando Alano, Jr. spends his days babysitting his grandchildren, but spends his evenings practicing his sport. He is a gold medalist in the Senior Olympics and has held his title for three years.
Children’s Lightning Wheels, a Paralympic Sports Club sponsored by Children’s Specialized Hospital, participated in yesterday’s event. Members of the Club, who shoot every Monday at the range, compete in the Junior National Disability Championships.
New archers were given an opportunity to try the sport under direction from Union County archery instructors. Gerry Decaro, president of Traditional Archers of New Jersey, was a founding member of the Oak Ridge range and one of the instructors in attendance. He is proud of the more than 1,500 permits that have been issued since the range opened. He said that safety and proper range etiquette are stressed during county-run certification classes.
Union County residents can find out more about the Archery Range and the certification process by visiting the Union County Parks website: Archery Range