A BANBRIDGE woman has been elected NI Archery’s first Lady President.
Ballyvally Archery Club’s Valerie Sleith has been handed the job after what has been an exceptional year for archery. Not only has it gained great media coverage in the Olympics but it has also featured in numerous films and series such as The Hunger Games and Arrow. Clubs have reported an increase of membership of up to 20%.
Originally from Dublin, Valerie moved to Banbridge six years ago and joined Ballyvally Archery Club. Valerie is a familiar figure at both field and target archery events.
She said, “My family is from Newry but I was born and grew up in Dublin. I always wanted to do archery from a very early age. I was fascinated by the history of the medieval longbow and how the men trained to use it in battle.
“Archery as a pastime has a long history and there are pictures of Victorian ladies shooting in their crinolines and ornate hats.
“Archery is a sport for all ages and abilities but I never had the chance to do it prior to moving to Banbridge.”
It has also been a year of great International achievement by Northern Irish Archers. Sharon Vennard represented GB at the Paralympics, Mark Nesbitt, Robert Mallon, Patrick Huston , Jordan Mitchel and Ruth Gilmore represented GB in the World Field Championships in val d’isere. Mel Lawther, Robert Hall, Alan Convery have shot alongside some of the best archers in the world in Vegas and Amsterdam.
The junior target squad had great success in Athboy at the Euro nations Championships. Squad consisted of Frank Lennon, Conor Hall, Stewart-Lee MacFadyen, Shannon Russell-Cowan, Kristin Lundy, Emer Mongomery, Dean Hamilton and Rebecca Lennon.
Ballyvally also have three archers on the GB Squad, Rebecca Lennon, and brothers Jordan and Lewis Mitchel. To quote N.I.A.S Junior Target Officer Hazel Campbell, “The talent and level of archery in N.I. is second to none.”
There is a tremendous network of clubs within Northern Ireland making the sport easily accessible. Valerie practices both field and target archery but attained her highest honour in field archery by winning the title of all British and field champion in 2011.
Valerie was asked how she sees the future of archery in Northern Ireland.
“I see archery in Northern Ireland building on its present strong foundations in both target and field disciplines and in both traditional and modern bow styles,” she said.
“Recurve and compound archers have enjoyed great success proved by their strong performance in the recent Irish Open Indoor Championships held near Carlingford in Co Louth.
“On the very same weekend Ballyvally Archery Club hosted the N.I. section of the British Bare bow Championships. This competition was mainly for bare bow style but also a show case for traditional archery as well as including compound bare bow, trad and American flatbow.
“Craig McCreery placed first in the junior men’s category. It is in our juniors that the future lies and I wish them every success for their continued efforts.”