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Straight Arrow

VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Montenegro, a World Champion Archer, Does His Best in Passing Sport to the Younger Generation

August 05, 2000|LAUREN PETERSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

STUDIO CITY — Whether June Montenegro is targeting a bull's-eye or the next generation of archery enthusiasts, his aim is true.

Montenegro, a 54-year-old Studio City resident, won the pro freestyle limited division of the International Field Archery Assn.'s World Field Championship 2000 last month in South Africa.

"I practiced a long time for that," Montenegro said. "It was a grueling competition, very grueling."

Montenegro came out on top in the event, which included more than 300 archers from 14 countries, byscoring 2,390 points in the five-day competition. Participants shot at 28 targets each day.

Most tournaments run only two days.

The world title was preceded by a victory in the National Field Archery Assn. California State Championships at Lake Isabella in May.

When he isn't traveling the country or the world in competition, Montenegro can be found at the Woodley Park archery range in Van Nuys, sharing the nuances of the sport--and the intricacies of coaching it.

As an advisor for the Woodley Park Archery Club and its Junior Olympic Archery Development program, Montenegro works with a quartet of club coaches and the young shooters they supervise.

"June is omniscient," said Tracy Locker, head coach of the club's JOAD program.

"The man tends to be very humble, but he has been a mentor to all of us."

The Woodley Park club involves up to 200 kids annually who range in age from 5 to 19. Many are new to the sport.

"For me, it's being able to be involved with the sport and involve others in it that's the best thing about it," Montenegro said.

"I see I make a difference with kids. Show me a kid who wouldn't like shooting a bow and arrow.

"This is the most primitive sport you can get into, I think. I think it goes back to playing cowboys and Indians."

Club group sessions for the public, which may come on a drop-in basis, are scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at Woodley Park, with other sessions for members in the JOAD program.

"I find that the kids, they learn to respect the bow and arrow as sports equipment and as a weapon," Montenegro said.

"It teaches patience and self-discipline."

Montenegro learned the virtues of archery as a teenager in the Philippines.

Proficient with the re-curve bow used in Olympic competition and with a compound bow more common in hunting, he was a Philippine national team member before emigrating to the United States in 1976 and becoming a naturalized citizen in 1978.

Almost upon arrival in this country, Montenegro began winning competitions and promoting his sport.

He won a state title in Montana three months after coming to the U.S. and is sponsored in competition by Utah-based Hoyt USA, the largest manufacturer of archery equipment in the world.

His five children all became age-group standouts.

Montenegro and other Woodley Park club officials help other kids do the same, and urge them to pass along their expertise and enthusiasm.

Travis Strauss, 16, a senior at Canoga Park High, has done both.

He won a California State Games title three weeks ago in San Diego, and placed fourth in the 15- to 18-year-olds' division in the World Archery Festival and Shoot in Las Vegas in March.

"It takes a lot of practice so that you get the muscle memory you need," Strauss said.

"It's harder than people imagine. You have to have consistency or else one little flaw and your arrow's going to go way off from where you're trying to hit."

Strauss, a soccer player as a child and a member of Canoga's Park's boys' track and field team, has been on the mark in his attempts to introduce his other sport to fellow students.

He started the Canoga Park High archery club team in January with the help of Antony Villalobos, an assistant track coach whom Strauss introduced to the sport.

"We figured we'd get like six or eight kids, and the first meeting we had 18 people show up," said Strauss, who served as something of a player-coach to the group when needed.

"I shoot a lot more than I coach, though," Strauss said.

Club membership settled at 13 regulars who met once a week to shoot at an on-campus target range throughout the spring semester.

Strauss' outreach effort is gratifying to Woodley Park club officials.

"Not everybody is going to go into a mainstream sport," Locker said. "The deal is, these kids learn to stick with something.

"It's good to see the process going."

It isn't surprising, however, to Montenegro.

"The sport is a discipline," he said. "You compete not against anybody else, really, but against yourself.

"You don't need to be with anybody else to play it, and if you win, you feel it is your win. It's all you."

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