Weatherman on mark

Archery: Channel 2 meteorologist Norm Lewis is a relative newcomer to the sport, but that hasn't stopped him from being right on target as national age-group champion.

April 12, 2000|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

Channel 2 meteorologist Norm Lewis steps into the brightly lighted room, takes a deep breath and narrows his focus. For the next several minutes, accuracy is the only thing on his mind.

Working methodically, Lewis delivers -- not a forecast, but a quiver full of arrows. And while his TV delivery has earned him fans, his archery prowess has brought national and regional recognition in the past year.

Lewis, 56, is the outdoor national champion in his age group and shooting style. Last month, he finished second in his class and style in the indoor world and national championships held jointly in Tulsa, Okla. He holds the state outdoor doubles title (with Ed Bowen Jr. of Severn). And he won a gold medal at the 1999 Maryland Senior Olympics.

If it were all a matter of luck, Lewis would be having a beginner's bonanza, for it was just a little over a year ago that he purchased his first competition bow.

"That is extremely rare," says Marihelen Rogers, executive secretary of the 19,000-member National Field Archery Association. "There aren't too many people who catch on that fast."

Says Bowen, Maryland's 1999 Bowman of the Year: "He's come a long way. For his age group, he's very good. He will be better this year, I guarantee."

This weekend, Lewis will be in New Jersey at the Atlantic City Classic, an indoor event that started his amateur rise last April, when he went to learn the ropes of competition and came home with a second-place medal.

"I've kind of come full circle," says Lewis. "What this means is you can teach an old dog new tricks."

Almost every weekday before he goes to WMAR, Lewis drives from his Severna Park home to Macrotech Accessories, the Brooklyn Park archery shop. There, for two hours, he shoots 100 to 150 times. Sometimes he's working on accuracy, putting the arrows into a bull's-eye about the size of a quarter. Sometimes it's timing and form.

Indoor shooting is at 20 yards. Outdoors competition involves shooting five arrows at each of 28 targets from 11 to 70 yards away.

Lewis says when his form is good, the distance doesn't matter. "One of the hardest things in any sport is to repeat the same thing over and over again exactly the same way."

Adding to the difficulty in Lewis' case is that he pulls and releases his bow with three fingers, not a mechanical "trigger" as so many of the top archers do.

"It's harder to get all three fingers to release together," he says. "For me, it's a very tactile thing. It's like I prefer a hardcover book to a paperback."

Lewis competes in the freestyle limited class, using a compound bow with pulleys that assist in the drawing back of the string. The arrows fly to the paper target at 220 feet per second.

"It's a misconception that archery takes a lot of strength," he says. "I'm a little guy. Children shoot; 35 to 40 percent of archers are women. Only 20 percent of this sport is physical."

The sport isn't cheap. Competition bows cost $1,000 and arrows are $240 a dozen.

Macrotech owner Len Marsh maintains Lewis'equipment for free. The two frequently huddle to tinker with the bow and its sight.

"When you start shooting at this level, miniscule adjustments make a difference," Lewis says.

Lewis isn't sure why he's gotten so good so fast.

He thinks he got a Boy Scout merit badge in archery and remembers he "plinked around in the back yard" with a bow and arrow for a short time in the early 1970s.

His coaches -- Larry Hix and Sue Weinstein of the Anne Arundel Archers -- say his determination and ability to take advice have aided him.

Lewis only knows that "I think the arrow into the `X.' The instant I let go of that arrow, I know where it's going."

Fellow archers say it helps that Lewis is used to functioning under pressure and being watched.

"He took a lot of abuse," says Bowen of the state doubles competition last August. "Everybody got on him for being a weather guesser, but he took it in stride."

The Lewis composure cracked in Tulsa, resulting in a second-place finish, five points behind the winner.

"I beat myself, lost my concentration," he says. "I began listening to a woman sitting behind me who sounded just like my ex-wife. Normally a brass band could be playing `The Stars and Stripes Forever' and I wouldn't notice. This time I did."

The losing experience didn't sour Lewis on his new hobby.

"There are people who shoot their whole lives who don't get to do what I've been fortunate enough to do," he says. "When I'm practicing and competing, it's just mind, my body and the target.

"It's all absorbing. I'm hooked."

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