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Student archers from Alabama make strong showing at national championship

Patience, determination and focus are a few of the skills the sport of archery teaches students who participate in Alabama’s National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). Those skills recently paid off for several student archers from Alabama who attended the 2021 NASP Open and Championship in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on June 10-12.

Nearly 2,100 archers from 33 states competed in the event. Of the 93 students from 13 Alabama schools in attendance, four individuals placed in the top three of their respective divisions in the championship portion of the event. Additionally, Causey Middle School in Mobile, Alabama, took 1st place in the Overall Middle School Division, and Cullman’s East Elementary School placed 5th in the Elementary School Division. Causey also took 2nd place in the Overall Middle School Division of the IBO/3D Challenge at the Myrtle Beach event.

Alabama’s top individual archers in the championship include Carrie Daniels, 8th grade, Phillips Preparatory School (Mobile), 1st place, Middle School Girls Division, with a score of 294; Grace Feenstra, 8th grade, Causey Middle School, 3rd place, Middle School Girls Division, with a score of 293; Hunter Horton, 8th grade, Causey Middle School, 2nd place, Middle School Boys Division, with a score of 292; and Jace Law, 5th grade, Dawes Intermediate School (Mobile), 2nd place, Elementary School Boys Division, with a score of 283.

Other Alabama archers making the top 10 in their divisions include Sandra Shropshire, 7th grade, Causey Middle School, 4th place, Middle School Girls Division, with a score of 291; Will Bolzle, 9th grade, Cullman High School, 5th place, High School Boys Division, with a score of 295; and Ethan Wheat, 6th grade, Causey Middle School, 7th place, Middle School Boys Division, with a score of 288. Student archers from Alabama also placed in the Open portion of the event. For complete championship results, visit nasptournaments.org.

In addition to placing in the championship, Carrie Daniels, Grace Feenstra, Sandra Shropshire, Jace Law and Ethan Wheat are Academic Archers. The NASP Academic Archer program recognizes students who maintain high academic achievement while enjoying the sport of archery. Student archers are nominated by their coaches to be included in the program. Since the program began in 2015, Alabama has consistently ranked in the top five participating states.

Scoring for the championship is based on Olympic-style, target archery in three divisions – elementary, middle and high school – and includes team and individual levels. A perfect score for an individual archer is 300 points.

“This is one of the strongest showings ever on the world stage by Alabama’s student archers,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “Their determination and dedication to both archery and academics will serve them well in other aspects of life.”

The NASP was founded in Kentucky in 2002 and has since spread around the country. In Alabama, the NASP is a joint venture between the ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and the Alabama Department of Education. Each year, more than 4,000 student archers from 125 schools across Alabama compete for a chance to qualify for the state, national and world championships.

The Myrtle Beach event was the first in-person, national NASP championship to take place since 2019. NASP President Tommy Floyd said everyone involved in the program is excited to see a return to in-person competition.

“We are thrilled to be conducting in-person tournaments again,” Floyd said. “Our entire team loves to see the large crowds and the smiling archers. These past months have been difficult. Many of our student archers were unable to attend any in-person events due to the pandemic, but we are glad to announce that NASP is back. We congratulate all of the Alabama archers who competed and placed in the championship.”

Prior to the pandemic precautions of 2020, Alabama held eight regional qualifying tournaments in February and early March. In lieu of an in-person state championship, trophies for the year were awarded based on the regional scores. Just like most office meetings across the country, NASP’s National Championship also went virtual, allowing students to shoot in their school’s gym under the observation of a neutral adult. Those scores were verified and tallied for a virtual ranking. Teams that competed in the virtual national championship were then eligible to compete at the in-person Myrtle Beach event.

Lisa Counselman, Causey Middle School Archery Coach, said the pandemic put a damper on last year’s season, but her team was determined to make this season as normal as possible. Extra effort put into safety precautions allowed the team to focus on preparing for the event. Those efforts paid off with four of her archers placing in the tournament as well as earning them top honors in the Middle School Division.

“This was the first time Causey has taken a team to the championship,” she said. “We began our season in July 2020 and worked non-stop until the event in June 2021. We knew going in that we had some tough competition, so taking 1st place in teams was an incredible feeling. When I saw the updated scores, I was overcome with emotions.”

Coach Counselman has high praise for her champs who are heading into 9th grade this fall.

“Grace Feenstra, who is one of our team captains, and Hunter Horton were 8th graders when they competed at the event,” she said. “Seeing them shoot so incredibly well made their wins even more special. It was their first trip to the championship and they definitely made it count.”

In addition to taking 3rd place in the Middle School Girls Division, Feenstra placed in the top five of the Overall Girls Division, making her eligible to participate in a scholarship shoot off.

“That was very exciting to witness,” Counselman said. “She overcame a lot of nerves and walked away with a $1,000 scholarship that she can use toward any college of her choosing.”

Coach Counselman also recruited some excellent 5th grade archers from Dawes Intermediate to accompany the Causey team to the championship. One of those 5th graders was Jace Law.

“Jace has taken lessons with Coach Joshua Clarke for two years and also attended bullseye and 3D practices with Causey leading up to the championship,” she said. “He is very driven and self-motivated and has worked very hard to accomplish this goal.”

This fall, Jace will begin 6th grade at Causey and officially draw his bow for the school’s archery team.

Carrie Daniels also trained with Coach Clarke. He is very proud of her 1st place win in the Middle School Girls Division at the NASP Open and Championship. A former student archer himself, Coach Clarke shot for Alma Bryant High School in Irvington, Alabama, from 2009 to 2012 and knows just how difficult the competition can be.

“I am proud of Carrie and her hard work,” he said. “She has come a long way since she first started.”

As a student at Alma Bryant, the future coach would travel to various schools in the Irvington area throughout the week to help other archers perfect their skills. Coach Clarke said that experience helped him grow as a leader. Today, he is working to pass on those types of life skills to his students.

“I hope my students learn that teamwork and determination pay off,” he said.

This year’s big wins at the NASP Open and Championship are exciting, but there is more good news for Alabama’s NASP archery students. The Alabama NASP State Championship is returning to the Multiplex at Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama, on April 7-8, 2022. During the event, ADCNR will be awarding up to $10,000 in scholarships to qualifying archers. To learn more about the state championship or how your school can start its own archery program, visit outdooralabama.com/programs/alabama-archery-schools.

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