BATESVILLE Let it be known: The students at Eagle Mountain Magnet school in Batesville liked archery before it was cool.
In 2009, long before kids wanted to brandish bows like Katniss from The Hunger Games, Eagle Mountain added the sport to school’s physical education lineup. The kids have been going crazy for archery ever since.
In just four short seasons of competition, the school has built a reputation as being one of the strongest programs competing in the National Archery in the Schools Program. The latest season was another in a line of successes: The team took first place in the elementary division at the state competition in Hot Springs, followed by a second-place finish at the national tournament in Louisville. In early October, the team ended its 2012 season by placing third in the world competition at Disney World in Orlando.
“When we first started competing in 2009, we took first at world,” Coach Susan Parker said. “Everyone started saying, ‘Where is Batesville, Ark.?’”
Now both the competitors and the hometown know who they are.
“The world competition — it’s huge,” seventh-grade archer Jack Looney said. “There are tons of people and vendors, but I just concentrate on winning.”
All that concentration worked for Jack this year. He took home second at nationals and world. He didn’t even get nervous.
Seventh-grader Ronnie “RJ” Jeffery managed to keep a cool head during competition as well. He took first at the world competition and has a metallic blue bow and a new target at home to prove it. Bows of specific colors (silver for state, gold for nationals, blue at this year’s worlds) are given as prizes to those who win first place in the team or individual divisions. Some archers choose to put them away for safe keeping. The students from Eagle Mountain Magnet use theirs with pride.
Sixth-grader Gina Mishark uses her team silver bow from this year’s state competition at practice and hopes to come home with a gold bow after this season. In 2012, she took third at state and second in world.
“It took me about a year to get good,” Mishark said, coolly.
The hardest part, the kids admit, is just focusing on getting the arrow shot straight. The competitors use compound bows with no sights and no release aids. Everything is by feel. The most important step?
“You just look down the arrow,” said Jack Allen, who competed as a fourth-grader last season, “and don’t think about it too much.”
Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.