Franklin Co. archers go national

Published 12:08 am Sunday, May 22, 2011

NATCHEZ — Some of Franklin County’s sharpest shooters took a trip to Louisville, Ky., last weekend to take part in the National Archery in the Schools Program’s national competition.

Twenty-four archers from Franklin County High School competed for national championships with 110 other high school teams.

The Franklin County archers finished 66th overall in the tournament, but that is not a bad finish considering the school has only had archery for three years, coach Todd Haygood said.

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“We took the kids up to nationals, and we knew we wouldn’t finish in the top 10 or anything,” Haygood said. “I took 21 high school kids and three middle schoolers. I just wanted them to experience it and wanted them to come back and let kids know what it was like.”

“I knew we weren’t a national championship team yet, but I knew we had progressed every year.”

The Franklin County archers saved their best performance for the biggest stage. The team scored 3,143 points in the national tournament, surpassing their previous best and their goal of topping 3,100 points in a competition, Haygood said.

“For them to do that at nationals (is impressive),” Haygood said. “I am very proud of my kids, we exceeded our goal and on they bus back they said they are going to shoot over 3,300 next year.”

Haygood sees the competitive spirit growing in his young team and sees them starting to become more involved, he said.

“This year, they’ve actually started competing against themselves instead of just shooting,” he said.

Haygood said some of the schools at the state competition have been competing since the NASP started 10 years ago, and many of the schools have archery year-round, with their own archery centers on campus. Franklin County’s archery season runs from February to May, and the archers are limited in the amount of time they have to shoot, but Haygood sees that changing, he said.

Haygood said Franklin County had approximately 40 to 50 children sign up for the team’s inaugural season though only 25 of those participated. Last year the team had 30 participate, and this season that number jumped to 53.

The same increase can be seen in the number of competitions in which the team has competed. The first year they just had two competitions with Tylertown, the second season Franklin County participated in three and this season they had eight competitions.

Franklin County finished fifth in the state tournament this season, 131 points behind state champion North Pontotoc.

One of Franklin County’s top performers this season was junior Lea-Ann Randol. Randol finished 16th among junior female archers at the national competition with her score of 279 out of 300. She finished 141st overall out of almost 2,700 female archers.

Randol said the national competition was big, fun and exciting, and she was pleased with her performance and her improvement since she started archery three years ago.

“It felt amazing (to do that well in nationals),” Randol said. “I started off as one of the bottom people (on the team), and I just continued to work.”

“(To get better) you just have to practice, get consistent and know where you’re aiming.”

Randol said she practices at least 15 minutes a day. Her 279 score matched her career best performance. The first time she shot 279, earlier this season, she broke the Mississippi state record for her classification. Although that record was broken again a few days later, Randol said she was glad to have held the record for a while.

Randol’s showing at the national tournament qualified her for the world competition in October in Orlando, Fla., where she will compete against archers from around the world.

“(I’m excited) because I get to go to Disney World,” Randol said. “I’m (also excited) about meeting new people from different countries and getting to see what it’s like to compete in a world tournament.”

Randol also plays soccer for Franklin County, but said that archery has taken over as her favorite sport. From her personal experience she also learned something about archery she wanted to share with future archers.

“Even if you don’t think you can shoot a bow, and you don’t think you’re going to be good at it, you’ll be surprised with yourself,” Randol said.

Josh Owens was the top boys archer for Franklin County. He finished 77th among ninth grade boys.

Haygood and NASP state of Mississippi coordinator Waldo Cleland said that the number of children picking up bows and learning to shoot is growing rapidly.

“It’s the fastest growing activity in any school,” Cleland said.

Cleland, a professional archer and five-time national champion, said what Haygood has done with the Franklin County team has surpassed his expectations.

“The program was designed to keep kids in school and get grades up, and it turned out Franklin County took it a step higher and went to the national finals,” Cleland said.

Cleland said the sport continues to grow in the state and there are archery teams in schools in 46 counties. He also said that Cathedral and several other local schools are starting archery programs.

“(NASP) is about to explode,” Cleland said.