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Franklin County High School hosts approximately 200 archers in 2-day tournament

Jon Wilkinson, left, and Austin Wallace, both members of the Franklin County High School archery team, take aim at their targets Friday evening during the third-annual Franklin County archery tournament at Franklin County High School. The tournament hosted approximately 200 archers from around the state. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)
Jon Wilkinson, left, and Austin Wallace, both members of the Franklin County High School archery team, take aim at their targets Friday evening during the third-annual Franklin County archery tournament at Franklin County High School. The tournament hosted approximately 200 archers from around the state. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)

MEADVILLE — Jon Wilkinson and Austin Wallace see archery as a way to compete against each other, among other things.

The two Franklin County High School students are members of the school’s archery team, and both competed in the third-annual Franklin County High School archery tournament Friday. Good friends outside of the sport, Wilkinson and Wallace can often be seen arguing and talking smack about who shot a better score.

“We’re pretty competitive,” Wallace said. “We’re always trying to see who has the higher score. It gives us someone to compare to.”

Wilkinson and Wallace were just two of many archers to pick up their bow at the two-day tournament on Thursday and Friday. Franklin County archery coach Todd Haygood said approximately 200 archers competed in the tournament. The tournament was supposed to run through Saturday, but a forecast of severe weather caused the third day to be canceled.

“We have a class-act tournament, and we want it to be the best in the state,” Haygood said.

At top, FCHS senior Haley Haygood prepares to release an arrow during the tournament. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)
At top, FCHS senior Haley Haygood prepares to release an arrow during the tournament. (Michael Kerekes \ The Natchez Democrat)

Schools represented were Columbia Academy elementary, middle and high schools, Simpson Central elementary and middle schools, Topeka Tilton elementary and middle schools, Enterprise-Lincoln High School, Salem High School, Bogue Chitto High School, Dexter High School, Lawrence County High School and Franklin County middle and high schools.

Franklin County is a member school of the Archery in Mississippi Schools program. Haygood said this is the fifth year for the school to have a team, and Franklin County students in grades seven through 12 compete.

“When we started the program, we had like 18 kids,” Haygood said. “This year, we’re running a little less than 50.”

Wilkinson said he’s been doing competitive archery for three years, and a desire to learn how to shoot a bow is what got him interested. After taking up archery, Wilkinson said he then tried his hand at bow hunting deer.

“Coming from this and learning how to shoot with a sighted bow, it helps a lot,” Wilkinson said.

Haygood said the program doesn’t push bow hunting, but some children have naturally gone on to become bow hunters as a result.

“I had a kid who had never hunted before that decided she wanted to do it,” Haygood said. “After she graduated, she bought a bow and harvested a deer. We don’t go out there and promote hunting, though. We’re all about teaching kids good fundamental skills and being competitive.”

Wallace said this is his first year to shoot a bow, and it wasn’t too difficult a sport to pick up.

“It’s pretty simple,” he said. “Coach (Haygood) teaches all the techniques and everything we need to know.”

The ability for any child to pick up bow hunting is what makes it such an attractive sport to youngsters, Haygood said.

“Kids that aren’t super athletes can excel in this sport,” he said.

Haygood’s daughter, senior Haley Haygood, said she’s been involved with the team ever since her father started it up five years ago. With her father being on staff at Franklin County, Haley said she wanted to have something to do after everyone else left campus.

“It was either stay after school and do this or stay after school and do nothing,” she said.

Also a cheerleader and soccer player, Haley said she enjoys staying active. Archery, though, is a different kind of sport than most.

“It’s relaxing,” she said. “It makes me think a lot, but it’s all about muscle control, and it’s a mind game.”