Petal archery team targets success at World Tourney
A group of Petal Middle Schoolers has gotten very good at hitting what they aim at in the past year. Now, their sights are set on a worldwide tournament where they will be the first representatives of the Magnolia state at this competition, facing opponents from around the country and globe.
These Petal athletes do not wear cleats, run on a field, or wear any special equipment other than a small glove. But, their sport is ages old, predating most all modern sports we celebrate today — archery.
The archery team, with middle school and high school teams, got started about a year ago, and in its inaugural year these Panther archers have made quite the name for themselves. And, this week, they will have their skills with a bow and arrows showcased along with the top archery programs in the world at the National Archery in Schools Program world tournament in Madison, Wisc.
Since clinching a berth in the world tournament after a solid showing at the national archery tournament in May in Louisville, Ky., the archers have been practicing to be on par with a global talent pool. Archery Team Coach Scott Conway said the practice schedule has been a bit demanding, but the students — 7th and 8th graders — have risen to the challenge.
“We’ve been practicing three days a week since May,” Conway said. “Typically, we shoot the equivalent of two matches in a practice, so the kids get used to the environment and it becomes second nature. Of course, a few get a little burned out and go on a trip with family or vacation and they come back to practice determined to get better. It’s amazing to see drive like that in these kids. And, keep in mind this is summer break for them and they’re doing what it takes to be competitive.”
The regular practice has upped the team’s overall score at practice matches by a couple hundred points, Conway said. At the national tournament, the middle school team achieved an overall score higher than the current state high school champions; now they’re besting that average in practice.
“At nationals they shot 3,147 points, higher than the state high school championship team’s score, after shooting 3,027 points at state just two weeks prior. Now, the team is consistently shooting 3,150 and higher. “We think we’ll be able to hit 3,200 points or better at the world tournament,” Conway said.
And for a team that is just into its first year of competition, its members are kids that did not have much of a background in archery.
Jonathon Rector, a soon-to-be 8th grader at Petal Middle School, discovered archery during PE class.
“During PE last year, archery was an activity we did for three weeks, and I really got interested in it. My mom found out the school was starting a team, and I joined up,” Rector said. “I’ve played baseball and football, and really love baseball, but archery is tied as my favorite. I had to give up baseball to do archery, since the seasons are at the same time. I don’t mind missing baseball to do this. I think I’m going to stick with this into high school.”
Rector said he and his teammates are excited about the opportunity and keep each other motivated to increase their archery skills.
“We’ve worked hard since May. Since we’ve gotten here everyone has been doing their best to get to practice and make sure to do their best at practice,” Rector said.
Even though Rector and teammates are keeping a tight practice schedule while classmates run free of responsibility, he says it’s still enjoyable.
“I love the competiveness of the tournaments, and we all have to do our best,” he said. “And, it’s cool we practice so much because I get to see my friends a lot and we get to hang out and shoot away from school.”
Teams from 25 states and countries such as Canada, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Mongolia are expected to compete at the world tournament sponsored by NASP. All team members get to compete and the highest 12 scores from each team are calculated for an overall score. The equipment the archers use is meant to keep the playing field level and inexpensive. NASP archers use what is described as a bare bow — no stabilizers, releases, or sights. In fact, only one type of bow is allowed in NASP competition, the Genesis bow, which costs a little more than $100.