If you wanted to go shoot some hoops in the Miami Springs Community Center gymnasium last weekend, you might have been sorely disappointed to find out the gym was unavailable.
But for good reason.
The gym instead was being used for the FAA/NAA/NFAA 2014 Indoor State Championship Archery Tournament all weekend (Friday through Sunday) as close to 150 archers came from as far away as Central Florida to compete.
And once again, the City of Miami Springs and the Miami Springs/Virginia Gardens Optimist Archery Club, led by president Mark Bain and its officers, put on one great show.
Who won? Well, there were plenty of individual winners, even a few locals, but perhaps the real winners once again was the local archery club itself, along with the City of Miami Springs.
“Absolutely fantastic the way this has gone,” Bain said. “This is something that pretty much takes about a year to prepare for, going out and getting the volunteer work, food, sponsors. We’ve worked hard to put on a show for them. We give the shooters everything they need to shoot and have a good time.”
Bain also was proud of the fact that a total of 45 of the participants are as local as they get.
“I think we’ve got 45 shooters from our own club and that’s really great,” said Bain. “It’s plenty of work but a lot of fun at the same time putting this on and we appreciate the city for allowing us to use this facility, the city manager, Ron Gorland, for working closely and, of course, appreciate all of the staff, including Patti Bradley. The archers are having a blast. Don’t have to deal with wind, rain, sun, heat and that’s what an indoor tournament is all about.”
While there was plenty of competition, having a good time no doubt was the underlying theme of the entire weekend for all of the participants.
Two sharpshooters in town were James Harden from the Fort Lauderdale Archery Club who participated last year as well, and first-timer Samantha Eurich.
“I can’t stand this place,” Harden said with a sarcastic laugh. “Seriously, this place is the best. I shot in Las Vegas last month and this is actually a nicer venue. The targets are better, food’s great, everything’s great. This is by far the nicest setup.”
But as Harden went on to explain, it wasn’t just about the Miami Springs venue itself, but who runs it and who participates in it.
“What’s so great about this event is that it’s completely about the archers,” said Harden. “When you walk in and shoot with these folks, it’s families — all families, period. Mark (Bain) is not worried about making money. This is just a passion for the sport itself and trying to make it fun for everyone. Sure, we all want to shoot well but our success on this weekend is not as important as just relaxing and enjoying ourselves, and that’s the atmosphere Mark and the Miami Springs Optimist Archery Club has created.”
Only 16 years old, Eurich has quite an archery resumé built up. The highlight came two years ago when she was named the 2012-13 Florida Female Shooter of the Year in the State of Florida.
“I came to this tournament because this facility and setup is just so amazing,” said Eurich, who is from North Palm Beach and shoots out of the Palm Beach/Boca Raton Archery Club. “They have a great setup here and it’s pretty much exactly how we shoot the national shoot, plus it’s such a great environment here.”
Perhaps the thing that Bain and the Springs Archery Club pride themselves most on is the emphasis on “family” and the participation of not only adults but their kids as well.
A perfect example on Saturday was Jorge Molina and his 12-year-old son, Nicholas. Hailing from the Kendall area, both belong to the Springs club and were around last weekend as participants, Nicholas obviously in the juniors division.
“It’s an honor not only to be part of this Archery Club but then to be able to participate in a state competition like this is beyond belief,” said Jorge Molina. “You can tell this is all a first-class competition with nothing held back. Getting to come out and just participate with my son, other club members, just fantastic.”
“I was a little nervous at first but now I’m getting used to it and feeling more relaxed and doing better,” said Nicholas, a sixth-grader at St. John Neumann Catholic School in Kendall. “Ever since my dad brought me into archery and introduced me to it, I’ve just loved it. I tell my friends all the time, ‘Hey, come on, let’s do it.’ ”
One of the archery club’s officers was also one of its participants, as Susan Baan, along with husband and Miami Springs Police Chief Pete Baan took part, as well as their kids.
“It’s great that we have this for the second year and now hopefully many more,” said Susan Baan, who is awfully busy these days, serving as the co-chair of the upcoming Relay for Life event on March 15. “A lot of the archers have complemented us on how well everything is put together, even better than nationals. (There was) an increase in attendance this year, so the word has definitely gotten out and it’s great that archery has become a great pasttime now and that everybody is really getting into it and the kids are such a big part of this. Our original mission was to get the kids involved and thus get their parents involved, which keeps the kids coming.”
When asked, Bain agreed that having already put on the event last year made hosting it this year significantly easier.
“Yes, a lot easier,” said Bain. “We had a lot more volunteers on board from our club and with already having a model in place from last year, everything went smoother, which helped us go after more sponsors, including Comfort Inn Suites, which gave us a great deal on rooms for all of our out-of-town archers, Pepsi, and John Waterhouse and Archery’s Best Edge, which also came through in a big way.”
But what had Bain more excited than anything else was the presence of FAA president Bob Jones, who made the trip south from Gainesville and was on hand to see for himself what all the fuss was about over Miami Springs hosting the tournament. He looked very impressed.
“Everyone last year told me what a great event it was, so I had to make it a point to get down here this year and see it first-hand,” said Jones. “These folks really have an interest in archery and it’s refreshing to see that. Usually I end up running the shoot or having to get involved in some way, but not here. I don’t have to worry about a thing. This club is unique in that Mark, his entire attitude and passion for the sport is generated through the club and it’s remarkable to see.”
Sounds like Miami Springs hasn’t seen the last of the state tournaments.
“Yes, we’d like to see Miami Springs become the only host in the south,” said Jones. “Perhaps one in the north part of the state as well because a lot of people are concerned about travel now. Of course, I’m only one vote on the board.”
Anyone interested in joining the MS/VG Archery Club may do so in April when pre-registration starts up for the six-month session, which will begin on Monday, May 5. Cost is $45 for the six months and sessions are every Monday and Wednesday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Optimist Club, 1101 Wren Ave. For more information, Bain can be reached at 305-632-9068.