Rockford Freshman Center to hold Meijer State Games archery competition

Local cyclist, shooter a featured athlete

Last year the Meijer State Games of Michigan Opening Ceremonies took place at 5/3 Ballpark. Estimated income in visitor spending to local economics is $15 million.

Over 5,000 athletes are expected to participate in Michigan’s third Olympic-style State Games, which will take place throughout West Michigan through June 22, including the Rockford Freshman Center, 4100 Kroes Street. A Rockford cyclist and rifle marksman is also one of the featured athletes at the biking and small bore rifle competition portions of the State Games.

Jeff DeRegnaucourt, of Rockford Sportsman’s Club, is organizing the archery competition at the center, which will take place June 22-24. Last year’s Meijer State Games archers from the Rockford Sportsman’s Club led the parade of athletes into the opening ceremonies at Fifth Third Ball Park.

According to DeRegnaucourt, there are 108 archers ranging in age from 5 to 78 competing this year up from 60 last year.. Twenty-three are members of the National Archery in the Schools (NASP) from across the state of Michigan. The kids shoot the bows they were trained on in school as a physical education class.

“We are dedicating the entire afternoon from 4 p.m. on Saturday, for their tournament,” he explained.

On Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. will be the first day of the Federal International Archery (FITA) competition. Most amazing for audiences to watch are the two long-distance competitions, the longest of which is 90 meters, the length of a football field. The long distances will be shot Saturday and the shorter distances will be shot Sunday 9 a.m to 3 p.m. As the event is a Star FITA competition, should someone shoot a new national or world record, it will be official. Larry Johnson, who is a certified judge from the United States Archery organization, will officiate.

All archers in both the FITA and NASP will participate in opening ceremonies, which this year will be held Friday evening at East Kentwood High School stadium, where they will participate in the parade of athletes along with athletes in 30 other sports.

“In total we estimate 5,000 athletes from across Michigan,” DeRegnaucourt stated.

The American flag will be flown in by skydivers and the National Anthem will be played with the lighting of the Official Caldron, where the games will be officially opened. The mayor pro tem for the City of Rockford will officiate the opening of the venue here in Rockford behind the Rockford Freshman Center at 8:30 a.m.

Joel Bierling of Rockford is a Meijer State Games of Michigan athlete. He will compete in two sports, mountain biking and small bore rifle shooting.

“Economic impact includes not just the athletes, but those who come to see them, so there are as many as 10,000 or more visitors to Rockford, Greater Grand Rapids, and Sparta. It is estimated that the communities will realize an income of $1,500,000 in visitor spending from the State Games of Meijer,” DeRegnaucourt said. “We have partnered with the Rockford Public Schools and the Rockford Chamber of Commerce for this event.”

Featured athlete, Joel Bierling, who will compete in two events, both the mountain biking and small bore rifle competition, is a Rockford resident. He described what the event offers athletes.

“The State Games promises to provide a unique way of gaining exposure to different sports, venues and participants in an atmosphere that is something more than a single race or single event,” Bierling stated. “Its a part of something larger. This is my second year; the first was in 2010.”

Bierling said he looks forward to the new faces, new experiences and the spectacular air of the event.

Bierling started in sports, he said, “the same way we all get into sports. That looks crazy. That looks like it might be fun. That looks like something I may want to try some time. That looks like something I want to do right now! That was fun, when can I do it again?”

His best memory while competing in sports is ironic. He said the strongest memories aren’t usually those of the best performances or wins.

“You don’t really remember the things that go well. You remember the things that went poorly and that you overcame. My best memories are of those things that at the time went very poorly—adversity overcome.”

He looks forward to this week’s competition and said, for him, timing to avoid conflicts between the two sports will be difficult and make for a busy weekend.

The first Meijer State Games was held in 2010 with opening ceremonies at Fifth Third Ballpark was a huge hit, drawing over 3,500 athletes from 62 Michigan counties. These athletes participated in 15 sports and were awarded over 1,700 medals. Volunteers from all over the state donated their time to help make this year’s event a success. Van Andel Arena hosted the opening ceremonies in which over 5,000 spectators came to watch the Parade of Athletes, Lighting of the Cauldron, and live entertainment by American Idol finalist and Michigan native Matt Giraud.

Thirty-one states are conducting or organizing statewide sports festivals known as State Games. Modeled after other national and international multi-sport competitions, the State Games provide a motivational goal for all athletes within the state in which they are organized.

Nationwide, more than 90 sports are offered each year in State Games with competitions held in 536 communities for participants from over 6,000 cities and towns. Competitions are both recreational and competitive and have been the first step for many elite amateur and professional athletes.

Modeled after the Olympics, the philosophy of the Meijer State Games of Michigan is that everyone participates regardless of age or ability, everyone is welcome and everyone plays. The Games embody the values of participation, good sportsmanship and promote good nutrition and healthy living among residents of the state of Michigan. The Meijer State Games of Michigan is truly a grassroots organization that relies on the dedication of thousands of volunteers and the support of corporate partners.

Like the Olympics, the Meijer State Games of Michigan includes an opening ceremonies event that allows thousands of spectators to witness the Parade of Athletes, Lighting of the Cauldron and experience great entertainment. For more information, visit www.StateGamesOfMichigan.com.

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