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Franklin Co. racks up archery records

MEADVILLE — Jon Wilkinson has garnered both statewide and national recognition, all with the simple release of an arrow.

Wilkinson, a member of the Franklin County High School archery team, shot a 297 in the state tournament April 16 in Jackson. It was a state record for archery — and was only three behind the national prep record.

“This year, a young man from Kentucky shot a 300,” Franklin County archery coach Todd Haygood said. “Jon is in the top five scorers ever (to participate) in the sport.”

Wilkinson’s friend, Austin Wallace, was one behind him at 296, and since the two are always competing against each other, Wilkinson said it was a special moment when the both of them scored so high.

“I’ve been shooting in the 280s and 290s, but I didn’t expect to get that high,” Wilkinson said. “I was nervous to go up there to see who won, but when I realized me and him were the only ones to shoot in the upper 290s, it was amazing.”

Wilkinson shot three nines and 27 10s, while Wallace shot four nines and 36 10s. Being able to repeat his mechanics over and over is what allowed Wilkinson to set a state record, he said.

“It’s very nerve-wracking,” he said. “We practice a whole bunch, and over time, you’re just getting better and better. When you shoot that first 50, your heart starts pumping, so you have to put your bow down a minute and breath, or your shot will be off.”

Wilkinson described a process in which he first stomped his feet in the dirt to make sure his footing was correct during every shot. He then put the arrow on, placed his fingers just right, put his palm directly on the bow and put the knot to his mouth so the string touched his nose.

“If anything was wrong, I’d put the bow back down and start over,” Wilkinson said.

Haygood said it takes a special kind of concentration to do what Wilkinson and Wallace did.

“It takes a lot of practice and a lot of skill,” Haygood said. “Everything has to be right. The little itty bitty things can keep the arrow out of the 10 ring. To have that many 10 rings is pretty good.”

Wilkinson and Wallace weren’t the only ones being recognized at the state level. Senior Haley Haygood — Todd’s daughter — recently decided to attend the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky on a combined academic and athletic scholarship. Haley, who scored a 32 on the ACT, is the first person from the State of Mississippi to earn a scholarship for archery, Todd said.

“As far as I know, they’re the first college to offer an archery scholarship,” Haley said. “I think it’s pretty cool.”

Haley also said she’s happy she’ll get to continue doing archery at a competitive level.

“Archery is one of the least stressful and most fun sports I’ve participated in,” she said. “I’ve made great friends and met new people in archery, and I’m excited that I get to be around that atmosphere more.”