Tuesday, June 23, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> CMS student finds target

Leader sportswriter

Archery, though one of the oldest sports activities historically, has seen a rise in participation in recent years, especially among today’s youth.

Lance Schichtl, who’s one of three archery coaches at Cabot Junior High South, says the school’s archery club numbers continue to grow, and one of the club’s rising stars is 13-year-old Kayla Jones, who finished first overall out of 720 girls in her age group at last month’s National Archery Schools Program National Tournament in Louisville, Ky.

Jones, who just completed her seventh-grade year at CJHS with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, finished the NASP National Tournament on May 3 with a score of 289 out of a possible 300 points.

Among the middle school participants in the girls’ ranks, which combined seventh and eighth graders into one division, that score gave Jones a seventh overall finish, and out of the 5,475 total girls that competed in the nationwide tournament, Jones’ 289 score ranked 22nd overall.

It was quite a finish for Jones, especially considering the first time she picked up a bow was this past school year. Jones first joined the CJHS archery club as a seventh grader, and did so through the influence of a friend.

“I have a friend that did it,” said Jones. “She’s a year older than me and she inspired me to do it. Also, one of the coaches (Tim Hobbs) goes to my church, so I knew him, and my older brother had done it, so it was one of the things I wanted to try out.”

Jones is also a basketball and softball player, and she said archery is right up there among her favorite activities. But she also said she almost gave up on the bow before she ever got a chance to shoot it.

“I remember the first day,” Jones said, “it was horrible. I was like, ‘Do I really want to do this?’ But I stuck with it, mostly because of my friend.”

The introduction part of the archery club is all about safety instruction and drills, and Jones said her first club experiences consisted mostly of watching safety videos. Schichtl recalls that period, and said it took some convincing to get Jones to stick with the program.

“Kayla had a unique situation where she was kind of drug in by a friend, and basically we had to beg her to stay,” said Schichtl. “The first part is safety and things you have to go over. It’s not the most pleasant time, because you don’t get to shoot until you get through it all.

“For Kayla, that was boring. She wanted to shoot. Once she got to shoot, her interest picked up, and she’s really, really done well.”

Once she got to the shooting part, Jones said it didn’t take long for her interest in the sport to grow.

“It didn’t take long at all,” she said.

Between 60 and 70 students participate in the archery club at CJHS, which was established in 2009, but for team competitions, the top 16 to 24, depending on the competition, are selected to the CJHS traveling team, according to Schichtl.

“Every year we’re growing,” Schichtl said of the club. “We have a traveling team and we have an archery club. Our club consists of between 60 and 70 members. Our traveling team is between 16 and 24. That’s depending on the situation and what shoot we’re at. We’re growing. The sport’s growing.”

With movies such as The Hunger Games and Brave, which feature the use of a bow by the movies’ main characters, Schichtl said that’s peaked the younger generation’s interest in the sport.

“With The Hunger Games movies and the Brave movie and things like that, you see quite an interest,” Schichtl said. “Once they see it there and they find out, ‘hey, we can do that at school,’ it peaks their interests and they want to try it.”

Schichtl said that Jones is one of the more naturally talented shooters he’s had in the club’s history, and one of the quickest learners, considering she went from never picking up a bow when she joined the club, to winning the NASP National Tournament last month.

“For anyone to come that far and that fast from never picking up a bow to doing what she did, that’s pretty outstanding,” Schichtl said. “She went from never picking up a bow to the number one shooter at the national shoot. That’s pretty phenomenal.

“The biggest deal with her is she’s very coachable. She has fun. She’s very natural at it. I mean, it was easy for her to pick it up.”

Schichtl said that Jones is part of one of the most talented archery teams he’s had since the program was established. The team consists of seventh and eighth graders, and Schichtl said the top 16 or 17 will make the trip to the world tournament in Nashville, Tenn. on July 23.

Jones was the lone seventh grader to represent the CJHS team at the national tournament, where she finished first among the 720 seventh-grade girls that competed, and she’ll make the trip to the world tournament in Nashville next month.

Even though she’s still quite new to the sport of archery, Jones says she’d like to continue participating in it for as long as possible, which as of now would be through ninth grade.

If an archery program could be established at Cabot High School, though, she said she’d love to join that program as well when she gets to that point in her schooling, and she added that she’d even like to do it at the collegiate level as well, if possible.

“Through my school years, for sure,” Jones said. “We’re trying to get the program into the high school. We don’t have a high school program yet, but we’re working on it right now. If we get one, I’ll continue to go through high school, and maybe if I can, through college.”