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Maine Archer Has Seen Yankton's Archery Growth Up Close

Dave Cousins saw it from the beginning.

He saw the rise of archery in Yankton. He experienced it first-hand.

He could list off the ways the sport has grown in the small South Dakota town. And he could tell you how it could grow even more.

What the professional archer from Maine couldn’t do, for certain, is tell you how many times he’s actually traveled to South Dakota.

“I don’t even know how many times I’ve been here. It’s a bunch,” Cousins said after Saturday’s awards ceremony for the U.S. National Field Championships.

The two-day tournament, held — where else? — in Yankton, concludes Sunday with the team trials World Field Championships.

And as Cousins knows full well, it’s far from the only national or international tournament Yankton has played host to over the years.

“It’s definitely grown, and grown for the better,” said Cousins, who estimates he’s made 20-25 trips to South Dakota.

It all started in 2005.

That summer, Yankton was the site for the National Unmarked 3D Championships and the U.S. National Field Championships.

And Cousins was there. Back then, the tournaments utilized the ranges at Lewis & Clark Recreation Area — a far cry from the new field ranges near the Easton Yankton Archery Complex.

“What I really liked about it was, as a field enthusiast and a professional, was the terrain it offered,” said Cousins, who has been a pro archer for 21 years.

Since that first summer 11 years ago, Yankton has welcomed — nearly every year — some kind of national or international tournament.

While getting to Yankton has always been — and remains to be — a concern for archers (they have to fly into Omaha or Sioux Falls and drive to Yankton), the support once they arrive in town has outweighed the headaches, according to Cousins.

“The organizing committee has gotten better at learning how to suit our heads to host major championships,” he said.

And chief among those high-level events was the World Archery Youth Championships, a week-long tournament hosted by Yankton last summer.

The local organizing committe has since received rave reviews from World Archery for that event.

“It’s gotten them recognition from the Easton Foundation, and that’s helped foster them more grants to build better facilities,” Cousins said.

This is where the adage, ‘If you build it, they will come’ is accurate, according to Cousins.

Since those first events in 2005, the National Field Archery Association relocated its headquarters to Yankton, and the main building has undergone a few updates — it is, for example, one of the only facilities in the world to boast a 90-meter indoor range.

Growth of the sport has also been made possible by the support of Yankton, as well, Cousins said.

“And what’s still going on, is how behind it the community is,” he said. “You go through town and there are ‘Welcome archers’ signs.

“They’re happy to have us, and it’s very welcoming.”

It’s not as though archery is a one-time draw, either, he added.

“They know they’re going to be here; they know archery will continue to draw people to the community,” Cousins said.

And that was something World Archery also noticed as well.

Yankton was last year awarded the 2018 World Archery Indoor Championships and the 2020 World Archery Field Championships.

The key to landing events like those?

“None of their stumbling blocks are going to be the facilities or the funds,” Cousins said.

As someone who spends 35 weeks out of the year on the road and competes in 24-25 tournaments a year, Cousins said he unfortunately doesn’t have time to explore places like Yankton.

“The funny thing for me, as a professional, is that we don’t get to see anything,” Cousins said.

Why?

There’s just no time for anything else, he said. The routine is typically airport, transport, venue and the hotel — which leaves little time for anything else, even during a week-long tournament.

“I’ve been to South Dakota all these times and I’ve never seen Mount Rushmore,” Cousins said. “And I’ve never been on the (Lewis & Clark) lake.”

Put another way, he’s not a tourist. He’s not traveling to South Dakota, or any other location around the globe, to sight-see.

“We’re here for work,” Cousins said. “This isn’t a vacation.”

A popular question he hears revolves around his ‘favorite’ place. Of all the places he’s visited, where would he like to live?

For Cousins, it’s an easy answer: Maine.

“No matter where you’re from, some place is home,” he said.


Originally published 6/2/16 in the Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan by Jeremy Hoeck.