COLUMBIA — A line of targets stands 60 yards* away from a line of shooters. Two whistles signal the beginning of the round. The friendly chatter stops and a hush settles over the shooters and spectators.
A man in a white and red T-shirt chooses an arrow and sets it up on his bow. He lifts the bow into the air then lowers it so that his bent elbow is parallel to the ground. Holding the bow so close to his face that it touches the corner of his mouth, he calculates his shot and then releases.
With a thud, the arrow hits the target. Similar thuds echo as he slowly lowers his bow to the ground to reload. He uses binoculars to check the location of his arrow before repeating the process five more times.
Darryl Cooney has taken part in archery for 35 years. On Saturday, he made yet another appearance at the Show-Me State Games target archery competition at Stephens Lake Park. Cooney of Fenton has been coming to the games every year since they began and enjoys the competition.
"You get some of the state's better shooters there," Cooney said. "Anytime you get competition archery, you're gonna get the better archers."
Next to Cooney was a boy in a blue T-shirt and cowboy hat. Unlike Cooney, who has years of experience, 15-year-old Dalton Schwanke was competing in the target archery event for the first time, though he has previously competed at the Show-Me State Games in bowling. He was introduced to archery through 4-H and began shooting in April. Although he admitted he was a bit nervous before Saturday's competition, he said having experienced archers around him helps.
"It's pretty cool," he said. "They're so good at what they do. It's fun to learn."
Joining them at the target was Richard Potter of Huntsville. He has been competing since 2002 and finished first in his division on Saturday. One of his most memorable wins was in 2005 when he won a Mustang automobile during an indoor tournament in Pittsburgh.
Potter, who is a 4-H instructor and said he enjoys helping the younger shooters, offered Schwanke advice on slowing down and loosening his grip.
"It's fun to watch them grow," Potter said. "Watching them learn is rewarding."
Schwanke's mother said she was pleased to see her son being taken in by the veterans.
"I'm really grateful," Susan Schwanke said. "I'm impressed they've been so accommodating and helpful giving him pointers."
Cooney said archery has seen growing interest because of the popularity of "The Hunger Games" books and movie. It has also seen growth in the younger ages thanks in large part to The National Archery in the Schools Program, which aims to introduce archery to fourth through 12th grade students in physical education classes. In the 2011-'12 school year, 2 million students were introduced to archery through NASP.
Cooney said it's important to help those starting out in the sport.
"Archery is an individual sport," Cooney said. "The goal is to be the best and beat the other great shooters, but you always want to help new shooters. You want them to stay in the sport."