Big Sky participant Thomas hooked on archery

Shawn Greathouse, left, of Johnstown, and Tim Gillingham of Provo, Utah, take aim at a target 60 yards away Saturday as they compete in the Big Sky Open archery tournament at the DoubleTree Hotel. Both men are part of the Mathews Pro factory staff team.

Janet Thomas checked her “accomplishment list” about a year ago.

With a “big” birthday approaching, she’d been ticking off things she’s tried over the years. At the top of the list: archery.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl,” the Longmont woman said Saturday after finishing her round at the Big Sky Open archery tournament at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Once she built up the courage to walk through the door of an archery shop and indoor range, she was hooked. She joined a league, is already on her second bow and won a state title two weeks ago, setting a state record in the process.

“I didn’t know a soul,” Thomas said. “I mentioned it to my husband, so he bought me a gift certificate. I just sucked it up and marched in to see what was going on.

“They were so friendly, and we have a ladies league, so I joined that, and off I went. They said, ‘Oh, you’re going to Eagle, aren’t you?’ I said, ‘Well, sure.’ They were all going and I just got on the trail.”

The easy-going nature of tournaments is another reason Thomas, 60, and a couple of her friends, Kim Chase, 52, and her husband, Dick Smith, 59, also of Longmont, keep competing.

Chase and Smith were married 51⁄2 weeks ago, but he got her hooked about eight years ago, asking her to watch him at a tournament. Smith shot bows when he was growing up, but hadn’t shot for about 30 years.

When his son started shooting in Boy Scouts, Smith got the urge again, went to a range about 10 years ago, and was soon competing. Now, traveling to tournaments is something the newlyweds enjoy together.

“I was commuting to Washington, D.C., at the time and got up at 5 on a Saturday morning and thought, ‘Why am I doing this?’ ” Chase said of that date early in their relationship.

“I was expecting a chess match, serious thing, and I’m wondering why I’m spending a Saturday morning here.

“I got there and they’re joking and laughing and everybody’s talking. This is cool. I never met a nicer group, collectively, of people. Everybody helps everybody. It’s a family sport, couples can do it, single people. As a whole, it’s just such a great group of people. I’m still surprised everywhere we go, to nationals or whatever.”

Make no mistake, the archers are out to win in the Big Sky, but no one is above helping out their fellow archers.

“People are very good at helping you, giving you pointers and tips,” Smith said. “I was inside a little while ago with Dee Wilde, who I shot with today. He’s a really good guy and he was in there and a lady was in there with a mark on her arm from her string.

“He was standing there showing her how to rotate your elbow so you don’t get that. It was something she was having trouble with and he stood there probably 10 minutes with her until she got it.

“No big deal, I know how to do it and you have a question; I’ll try to help you.”

Saturday, the archers competed in the double-V formation competition, unique to the Big Sky. A series of targets are set up at five-yard intervals, starting at 20 yards and going to 60 yards. Each archer shoots three arrows per distance.

Later on, a clay pigeon shootout added to the fun. It’s much like knockout in basketball, where you shoot at a clay pigeon at a short distance. If you break the pigeon, you move back to the next distance. If you miss, you’re out. The last man (or woman) standing wins.

The tournament wraps up today at the DoubleTree.

Smith, Chase and Thomas all plan to compete in the state field shoot on Grand Mesa next month, where they’ll meet up with their friends and competitors again.

Thomas is still a little amazed at the camaraderie in the sport.

“Here I am shooting next to Reo Wilde, one of the top shooters in the country, in the world,” the rookie archer said. “I just read about him in Archery Magazine and here I am joking with him like he’s my son.”


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