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Local archers aplenty at Alberta Winter Games

Six local archers will be channeling their inner Legolas or Robin Hood at the 2020 Alberta Winter Games in Airdrie Feb. 14 to 17.

The Zone 2 (Big Country) archery team includes nine marksmen from Airdrie, Crossfield, Okotoks, De Winton and Calgary. Airdrie athletes comprise more than half the team, and include Haley Priest, Dawson Molitor, Sage Wilkins, Cadence Puchinger, Nick Fogg and Austin Fogg.

“I’m really excited but also feeling a bit of pressure, because it is at home, and I tend to put pressure on myself when I compete at big competitions,” said Priest, a Grade 10 student at Bert Church High School. “I want to represent Airdrie well.”

Having participated in the sport for about five years, Priest – who also competed at the 2018 Alberta Winter Games – said she enjoys how different archery is from other sports.

Considering her family likes to spend time at shooting ranges, she said archery was a good fit for her.

“I’ve always been into sports, and my family is big into guns – we go to the gun range and shoot there,” she said. “I kind of wanted to try archery, so basically, went for my first lesson, fell in love with it and have been shooting ever since.”

Competitive archery involves using a compound or recurve bow to shoot arrows at a circular target 18 metres away. The target is divided into 10 evenly spaced concentric rings, with score values from one to 10 points. Archers shoot 10 ends of three arrows, and each end must be completed within two minutes.

“It’s always a challenge and I’m always learning new things,” Priest said. “It’s a huge challenge that involves…mental and physical aspects.”

Brendan Dwan, the team’s head coach, said Airdrie’s size in relation to other Zone 2 communities is likely why the city is well-represented in archery.

“With Airdrie being one of the larger communities in Zone 2, you’re naturally going to get more urban kids who go for the more communal sports, opposed to the kids who are in more rural parts of Zone 2, where they’re maybe a little more isolated,” he said.

“We get more kids from Airdrie who have joined a club and, through the natural channels, end up trying out for the Winter Games team – maybe there was some encouragement from their coaches.”

Another factor could be the OC Archery Range, which operated in the city from 2015 to 2019. Molitor, who captured gold in his division at the 2018 Alberta Winter Games, said he got his start in the sport after trying it out at a birthday party at the range about three years ago.

“A few weeks later, my mom asked me if I wanted to take a class there,” said the 15-year-old, who will participate in the male recurve 15-17-year-old competition. “I started shooting there, and haven’t really stopped.”

Though he has a gold medal from 2018 to defend, Molitor said he’s not letting his expectations get too high for the 2020 Games. 

“I don’t have any big objectives – I’m just trying to shoot my best,” he said.

Yet another local athlete is Wilkins. While she now lives in Crossfield, she grew up in Airdrie and still attends Meadowbrook Middle School. The 12-year-old, who will be participating in her first Alberta Winter Games, said she is excited to compete in her former hometown.

“I’m really excited, but it’s a little bit nerve-wracking,” she said.

The three remaining athletes – Cadence Puchinger, Nick Fogg and Austin Fogg – are all siblings. Austin, the youngest, will be competing at his first Games, while Puchinger and Nick participated in 2018.

A provincial record-holder, Puchinger will have high expectations for the Games, having finished first at various provincial competitions and second at the Canadian Field Championships in August 2019.

“This year was like a roller-coaster for me – lots of ups and downs,” she said in her athlete profile for the Games. “My shooting has come a long way [and] I am very proud of myself in the last year.”

The archery competition will run Feb. 15 to 17 at St. Martin de Porres High School. For a schedule, visit

Scott Strasser,
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19

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