Northmoor Archery Team Building a DynastyApr 14, 2020
Call it a dynasty in the making. Northmoor Elementary School didn't even have an archery program before the arrival of Edgar Fowlkes in 2017. Northmoor's Principal, Vernona DeCarlo, hired him to teach physical education and asked Fowlkes to introduce Northmoor students to the sport.
"I had a couple of donors, Drill Right Technology and Triple S Systems, step up and help purchase half the archery equipment," said Fowlkes. "The kids loved it and started talking about winning state that very first year."
The All-Stars archery program went full-time for the 2018-2019 school year and won the Oklahoma State championship that very first year. After accomplishing such a remarkable feat, the team traveled to Tulsa for the 2020 state competition with high expectations.
"The Northmoor All Stars took first place, notching a very impressive score of 3208," said Fowlkes. "This score would have place 7th in the high school division."
Fowlkes says the All Stars have worked hard to achieve such a high level of success in a short period. Team members start practice in October with an hour-and-fifteen-minutes before school, five days a week. They return for practice after school three days a week for an hour-and-a-half. The students even volunteer to come in for training during their recess time three-to-four times a week.
"The kids on the Northmoor archery teamwork at their sport just as hard as any high school sport in Moore," said Fowlkes. "In February, they practiced five days a week in the morning and 4 days a week in the afternoon. They still were begging to come in and practice during their recess time. I couldn't keep them out of the gym."
The team is made up of both boys and girls. Fowlkes says that one of the unique aspects of archery is that the sport levels the playing field for boys and girls because it demands a mastery of focus and discipline over strength and athletic ability.
"These archers learn a lot about life," said Fowlkes. "When you ask kids to practice 12 to 14 hours a week on top of school and other commitments, it takes a special internal drive and passion to practice like they do."
Because they maintain such a high level of commitment and dedication to practice, it helps the students bond together.
"These kids become a family," said Fowlkes. "Archery breaks down barriers that normally keep kids from associating with each other. They become one unit instead of a bunch of individuals."
The requirements to be involved on the Northmoor archery team are exacting but straightforward. Team members must carry a "C average" and be a model student at school. Everyone in school knows who the archery students are because they earn a shooting shirt and an archery jacket.
"The students know that they must conduct themselves as an elite student," said Fowlkes. "They know that grades come first, although some need reminding from time to time!"
Fowlkes says Melissa Craig, a fifth-grade reading and language arts teacher, has played a significant role in helping the team find success.
"She has a great rapport with the kids and does a wonderful job of monitoring grades and classroom behavior," said Fowlkes.
But it is the self-motivation of the kids that ultimately drives the remarkable success of this young archery program. Fowlkes says this year's team set their expectations very high and then went out and exceeded those goals.
"We had on our team the highest boy and girl shooter in the state," said Fowlkes. "Fifth-grader Anya Maynard shot a 278 out of 300 points, and fourth-grader Ethan Do shot a 278 out of 300 points also. Kadence Williams, who is a fifth-grade girl, shot a 269 out of 300 and placed 3rd over all the girls."
The future looks bright for the Northmoor All Stars. Fowlkes expects this year's team to pass down their work ethic to the incoming class of fourth-graders and help them commit to something special. Right now, the most challenging thing about the sport is that these elite athletes struggle to find a way to stay involved after leaving Northmoor.
"These kids become amazing athletes," said Fowlkes. "When they leave elementary, they leave the sport they have grown to love and have spent countless hours pouring their hearts and souls into it. I'm hoping things change in the future so we can have the sport at the high school level for them."
The Moore Public Schools has produced the Elementary School State Archery Champions for four of the last five years. It's not just the success that has stoked Fowlkes's passion for the sport. He's seen it change the lives of the kids who participate.
"Being apart of a special group, you see kids that struggle at school," said Fowlkes. "They step up their effort to be a part of the All Star Archery Team. I've seen archery take a troubled kid and turn them into a model student. It gives the girl that doesn't believe in herself a chance to soar once she sees her work paid off."
Fowlkes says that unlike any other sport he has played or coached, archery is life-changing for the kids that pick up a bow and arrow.
"On the back of our archery shirt is our belief statement that sums it all up," said Fowlkes. "'I AM Focused, Determined, Persistent, Confident. I AM AN ALL-STAR ARCHER.' They learn to believe, that's why I do what I do."