BY JEREMY HOECK
Here are some athletic-related things in the Yankton area that could attract some kind of national attention:
• Division I football or basketball at South Dakota State or the University of South Dakota.
And that’s probably it.
Now, can you name any sport that would attract international attention?
The short answer is no, unless archery came to mind. Then you’d be right.
This isn’t a ‘rah-rah archery is fun, try it!’ speech, because frankly I don’t shoot a bow, but let’s not kid ourselves: Yankton, South Dakota (population of nearly 14,500) is firmly on the international radar when it comes to archery.
(My coverage of archery can be found here)
Especially over the past two months.
Back in June, Yankton was informed that it will host the 2015 World Youth Championships — beating out, for one, Mexico City. The week-long tournament will bring approximately 600 youth archers from 60 countries, and is expected to be viewed and followed by millions of people online (or through other viewing options).
Now comes late July, when Yankton hosts the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) Outdoor National Championships. This event is no stranger to our community; Yankton has hosted it many times in the past. But it’s still worth mentioning that the top professionals in the world — the most recognizable names & faces in this sport — all shot here.
That 5-day tournament gave way Monday to the International Field Archery Association (IFAA) World Field Championships, another 5-day event that brings archers from 17 countries. To be fair, these aren’t the ‘best’ archers in the world, but that matters little.
It’s easy to get lost in the alphabet soup that is annual archery tournaments in Yankton, but when you see Australia, England, Deutschland, India and South Africa on the back of someone’s shirt, you realize who you’re surrounded by.
I’ve told friends this before, but I couldn’t think of anything else; any other sports assignment I could cover, that would involve this kind of a collection. Unless, say, I was sent to the Olympics or a World Cup some day.
All of those foreign archers were gathered together for Sunday night’s opening ceremonies, and it was hard not to stand there in awe of the representation around you. These aren’t high school track athletes; these are kids from literally halfway around the globe who have likely never talked to an American in person.
(Some of the youth shooters I talked to Sunday had never even left their home country. And some of whom had traveled 30-plus hours to get to Yankton).
And on that note, Yankton should consider itself lucky to have such an international tournament, because let’s be honest, it’s not an easy place to get to. You have to fly into Sioux Falls or likely Omaha, and drive here. It may not seem like a huge obstacle for us, but trust me, it is for someone from Australia.
And still, the thing is: The Yankton community is still slowly starting to realize what exactly it has out there at 800 Archery Lane.
Sure, youth clubs — among them, the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) teams and the Yankton Youth Archery Instruction Program (YAIP) — have started to sprout up, and even Mount Marty College has joined in the fun with a club team.
But still, I know people who probably think nothing of archery.
Truth is, archery is still thought of as a ‘niche’ sport; one that isn’t exactly spectator friendly. The average Yankton citizen is free to wander into the Easton Complex and look around, especially now with the newly-unveiled NFAA museum, but it’s asking a lot for people to see archery in the same way they view football, basketball, volleyball, etc.
But make no mistake, it’s archery that has vaulted Yankton onto the international map. Forget national map, we’re talking global.
I know, from my perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in writing about and taking photos at an archery tournament 10 days in a row (Tuesday marks Day 7!). Taking a step back and looking at it, you truly do feel lucky to be around something like this.
Yes, that’s corny, but we’re pretty darn fortunate.