HALIFAX, Pa. (WHTM) — Archery builds character. Halifax is building a dynasty.

When the high school archery team heads to the Pennsylvania State Tournament for the National Archery in the Schools Program next month in State College, it will be seeking its fifth consecutive state championship.

“Everything looks good. We’re right on target to get our fifth one,” head coach Bill Cook said. “We just need to close the deal.”

Now in its seventh season, Halifax Area School District was early to adopt the NASP program, which in Pennsylvania is overseen by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Once made up of a handful of participating schools across the commonwealth, Pennsylvania NASP now touts 240 member schools, with approximately 60,000 students participating in elementary, middle, and high school divisions.

Schools that wish to participate must complete a commitment letter and then become eligible for grants that cover about two-thirds of the cost of standardized equipment. The average cost for a school to enter into NASP is $3,000. Competition is co-ed and includes rules that ensure fairness in scoring, although organizers say statewide participation is split close to 50-50 between the sexes.

“Just this year alone, we’ve seen a much higher level of competition,” said Todd Holmes, shooting sports outreach coordinator for the Game Commission. “New this year, we’ve added a state qualifier system. Before, every school with a team could compete in states. We’ve outgrown our venue at Penn State, and now only the top 15 schools in Pennsylvania will compete in each level.”

In that group along with top-qualifier Halifax will be several neighboring schools; Millersburg, Upper Dauphin, Williams Valley, Line Mountain and Pine Grove. Each team sends 24 shooters. There are both team and individual championships, and winners go on to compete in a national NASP tournament in Kentucky.

“Upper Dauphin is our top rival right now,” Cook said, “but everybody around is getting better; not that we’re really scoring lower, they’re just all scoring higher. It is tight. This was the first time in seven years we lost a local shoot. In fact, we got handed a couple losses, but we bounced back in the state qualifiers.”

For Cook, the idea that Halifax has created an archery “dynasty” is humbling, but state titles aren’t his motivation.

“We have some unique kids,” he added, “kids that will probably never play basketball or football, but when you get them in here and they focus on shooting, that’s the part I enjoy. There are some kids who come here with low self-esteem and they come right up out of it. You see them change. They start hanging out with other kids, and some will excel at the sport. I have a girl here who joined last year and she couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. She worked hard and now she’s one of the best and she’s going to states. How could you not love that?”Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet.