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NFAA Easton Yankton
Archery Complex

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Yankton, SD 57078


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Local Archers Fare Well In State Indoor Championships

From the first moment she picked up a bow and found immediate success with it during a school physical education course, Alexis Sejnoha knew she had a brand-new hobby.

As it turns out, it didn't take long for the 15-year-old from Yankton to rise to the top of the South Dakota ranks.

“I was beating all the boys in my class, and of course, they hated that,” Sejnoha said last week from the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) headquarters in Yankton, where youth classes were about to start.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that was fun. Maybe I should try this.'”

The move paid off for Sejnoha, who was one of 28 Yankton youth and adult archers to compete in the South Dakota Archers Association (SDAA) State Indoor Championships, held March 23-24 in Sioux Falls.

Not only did she compete, but Sejnoha repeated her state title from last year, although in a different age division.

Like her fellow archers at the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center, Sejnoha found success thanks to her many hours of shooting.

“It's a lot of practice,” she said. “We're out there three days a week, and sometimes even more if there's a tournament coming up.”

Among the other first-place finishers for the Yankton group were Hannah Bartos, Kevin Colgan, Owen Warren, Fisher Bartos, Courtney Anderson, Gabby Keiser, Kendra Hunhoff and Michael Strom. Adults winning their divisions included Jamie Van Lent, Tom Juffer and Eric Tollefson - the Level 4 Elite Coach at the NFAA complex.

There were eight other archers who recorded top-3 finishes at the state tournament, including 17-year-old Yankton shooter Cedar Bartos.

In her fourth year shooting a bow, Bartos earned second place in her division after winning a state title three years ago in a younger classification. When it comes to tournaments, though, she said she concentrates more on individual growth.

“It's very personal,” Bartos said. “It's all about the little things you can succeed at. That's why it's such a huge achievement, with the pressure you face.”

Sejnoha agreed, pointing to the aesthetics and atmosphere that change from tournament to tournament.

“It's so different from shooting on your own home range,” Sejnoha said. “Everything is different, the lighting, what you're looking at - everything.”

With a number of outdoor shoots coming up for Bartos and her fellow archers, the experience of a state tournament can be beneficial.

“It helps because it's a high-pressure situation, and you have to get used to a huge environment,” Bartos said. “Everyone has pressure, one way or another.”

The introduction of Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) programs in Yankton have also helped provide local and area shooters with top-level training, according to Sejnoha, who is on the JOAD Advanced Compound Team.

Ultimately, it's a sport reliant on personal goals and achievement, she said.

“Archery is such a fun sport to be in because it's individual,” Sejnoha said. “You can be on a team like basketball, and maybe you win state, but what if you didn't play? Here, it's totally on you.”

Of course, it doesn't hurt to have one of the premier centers in the world at your disposal, Bartos added, smiling.

“We have one of the world's greatest facilities right here in our town, but I think we sometimes take it for granted,” she said. “We go to all these bigger tournaments and people say how jealous they are.”

Such amenities have helped the sport grow, according to 16-year-old Yankton shooter Elliott Cull. Also a member of the JOAD program, Cull finished third in his age division at the state indoor competition.

“It's getting bigger because I think people who have never tried are thinking about it because of the movies,” Cull said. “They find out how fun it is.”

Cull said he took two years off from the sport because it was “a little boring after a while.” Now, he's back performing at a higher level and is “excited again for it.”

Archery has also made waves at the collegiate level, with the introduction and continued growth of the team at Mount Marty College.

Jamie Van Lent, an MMC senior who won the adult female freestyle division at the state tournament, said she enjoys the opportunity to compete locally and nationally.

“I like those local tournaments, because you don't have to travel so far,” Van Lent said. “It's still good experience because it's big enough.”

The state indoor was Van Lent's third tournament shooting from a wheelchair, following a skiing accident. Last week she started shooting again standing up, and plans to do so at the First Dakota Classic in Yankton from April 20-21.

“I'll be ready for it,” Van Lent said.

The First Dakota Classic, however, is not the only major tournament coming to Yankton this month. The International Field Archery Association (IFAA) will hold its World Indoor Tournament from April 26-28 at the complex.

With that tournament comes some good-natured international ribbing, according to Tollefson, who coaches the young archers. He said among the phone calls he's received was one from the South African coach.

“'You know why we're coming, right?'” Tollefson said, quoting the coach. “'We're coming to beat you guys.' So I guess it's on now.”