Lighthouse students practice target shooting as part of the school's new archery program during the spring. 

COOS BAY — When students get back to Lighthouse School in the coming days, they will get a chance to continue a popular new addition to the school’s physical education program.

Eric Hamner, the Lighthouse PE teacher, added an archery program last year and it quickly become a big hit.

Hamner started the program in January and the students picked up the sport with enthusiasm. A number of them even competed in a state championship meet in Albany with good success.

Lighthouse School PE teacher Eric Hamner, left, and fifth-grade teacher Savana Frischman pose with students Halle Goorhuis and Julia Keizer af…

Archery has been an activity that students of various backgrounds could thrive in.

“One of the things about this program, kids who don’t do football, don’t do basketball, don’t do track — they can excel in this program,” Hamner said.

He added that a number of students who were struggling in school started to do better academically after they picked up archery.

The idea to start the program came after Hamner noticed the school had bows, targets and a curtain to catch the arrows that were off the mark, allowing him to set up a range in the school’s cafeteria for the program. The equipment had been donated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hamner earned his certification in the National Archery in the Schools Program as an instructor and started the program, setting it up so the students would practice at the regular competition distances — 10 and 15 meters.

Soon some of the students were shooting bullseyes — hitting the center in the 10-ring targets.

And when a group of the students went to the competition in Albany, Halle Goorhuis and Juila Keizer finished second and third among elementary school girls.

“Those two gals were on fire,” Hamner said.

At the end of the school year, Lighthouse had an in-school competition. Izzy Palen finished first, Sasha Holt second and Gannon Frost third.

“The girl who won the in-school competition has shot four or five bullseyes every practice,” Hamner said.

Hamner has had help teaching the program from Savana Frischman, the fifth-grade teacher at Lighthouse School. Many of the students in the program were in her class.

“I knew that I had a strength in organizing and the kids in our school didn’t have any sort of after-school opportunities,” Frischman said.

Like Hamner, she quickly saw the positive impact the program was having on the students.

“A lot of confidence and self-control,” she said of the things she sees the students getting. “We have a population who might not participate in team sports or be competition-oriented, so we have a place where kids can go where they can belong and they can really work on themselves.”

Late in the school year, Frischman asked her students why they like the program, sitting with a group that included Keizer, Palen, Goorhuis, Graham Gibson, Lily Cardoza-Duarte and Hadley Crockett.

“It is a cool adventure, something they hadn’t tried before,” Frischman quoted the group as saying. “There were not many other after-school activities, so they became very excited for archery specifically because it was different and new to them.”

Some of the students liked how it wasn’t about kicking or throwing balls.

“It feels unique and special to our school,” Frischman quoted the students. “Archery is a good after-school project and they liked being on the team because it wasn’t as competitive, all got to participate at the same time, everyone had their own part, and they weren’t going to yell at each other when something went wrong.

“They like that it was independent, but united. They liked working on it, working for yourself to get better, and having teammates cheer you on.”

Frischman said her students planned to continue in archery.

“Once they joined, they don’t want to stop because the more you practice, the better you get and the more you like it,” she said.

Hamner is excited to see the growth of archery at Lighthouse School.

“It’s been an awesome program,” he said.

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Sports Editor John Gunther can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 241, or by email at john.gunther@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jguntherworld.