Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
HOT SPRINGS — Valley Springs High School took the top spot in the High School Division of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Archery in the Schools State Championship held Saturday at Bank OZK Arena. Charleston claimed first place in both the Elementary and Middle School divisions, which were held Friday at the same location.
A single errant arrow separated the scores between Valley Springs and second-place finisher Bergman High School, with the two juggernauts posting final scores of 3,260 and 3,258, respectively. Alpena High School posted a score of 3,250 to round out third place in the High School Division.
Valley Spring High School’s first-place showing was anchored by standout performances by Luke Vail and Trent Mudgett, who ranked second and third, respectively, in the overall individual male archer scores, but all members of the team performed admirably during the competition. Bergman’s archers included the top-ranked female archer, Emilee Evers.
Charleston’s elementary and middle schools took control of their divisions, outpacing the competition by fairly large margins. In the Middle School Division, Charleston posted a score of 3,218 points to drive home the win over second-place Washington Middle School of El Dorado, which finished with a still-impressive 3,154 points. El Dorado Barton Junior High came a few arrows short of second, taking home a third-place trophy with a score of 3,127.
Charleston Elementary’s final score of 3,038 was enough for the win over Hill Farm Elementary’s second-place posting of 2,878 points.
In addition to team rankings, each archer’s score was tallied individually and the top archers in each division were awarded special prizes for their outstanding achievements. In the High School Boys Division, Landon Jackson of Greene County Tech High School took first place with a score of 289. Vail and Mudgett from Valley Springs both shot 284, with Vail taking the second-place spot based on more total hits to the bull’s-eye during the competition. Dylan Brown of Waldron High School took fourth and Ben Paxson of Southside High School placed fifth.
Evers of Bergman High School claimed the top spot among female archers at the high school level with the high school tournament’s top overall score of 290. Peyton Williams of Cabot Freshman Academy scored a 285 to capture second place, while August Alvis of Acorn High School, Alyssa Murray of Cabot Freshman Academy and Emmalee Rogers of Bergman High School rounded out the top five.
The Middle School division actually had the two most accurate archers of the entire tournament with Charleston Middle School’s Maddison Johnson and Ryan Polk of Washington Middle School both scoring a 291, higher than even the high school archers. These two will definitely be ones to watch in future years as favorites for the title. In elementary schools, Amber Bergen of Hill Farm Elementary in Bryant took top honors with a score of 276 and Jaxon Hutchins of Collegeville Elementary in Bryant placed at the top of the boys division with a score of 274.
All archers who won their division in individual competition were awarded a competition Genesis bow, similar to those shot during competition, and a field archery target. The top five individual archers in the High School Boys and High School Girls divisions also received scholarships ranging from $2,500 for first place to $500 for fifth.
Students from 94 schools competed in this year’s tournament based upon their performance at regional tournaments held in early February. The top two teams in each division from each region received bids for the title, as did the 10 next highest scoring teams in each division, regardless of region. Additionally, top individual archers were able to attend and compete on an individual basis even if their teams did not have a strong showing at regional tournaments.
“We choose participants for the state championship this way so archers competing in strong regions are represented as well as archers from across the state,” Curtis Gray, Archery in the Schools Program coordinator, said. “This tournament had the best young archers in Arkansas shooting it out for the top prize.”
Salem Elementary in Bryant and Cabot High School each earned the Joe Morgan Award, a special award of $1,000 for bringing the most food to the Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry food drive held in conjunction with the tournament for Project Hope Food Bank in Hot Springs. The money from this award was derived directly from donations from each sitting Arkansas Game and Fish Commissioner and AHFH and can be used to help the team with any expenses associated with participating in the program, such as equipment and travel costs. According to Ronnie Ritter, AHFH executive director, 5,520 pounds of food were delivered to Project Hope as a result of this year’s effort.
Gray said he was very appreciative of all the coaches, school administrators and families who supported the kids and made the event a success. Last year’s event had to be staged virtually because of Covid-19 protocols at the time.
“We had great attendance this year and you could tell a lot of people really wanted to be there,” Gray said. “When we looked around on the first day and took a look, it was really amazing to see everyone show up to have a good time cheering these kids on.”
Tabbi Kinion, AGFC chief of education, said parents and students commented throughout the weekend about how appreciative they were of the in-person state championship being available this year.
“Every student and parent left the convention center more connected to our agency and our staff,” Kinion said. “For these students, this leaves a lifelong positive impression of our agency and they walk away with skills that will help them enjoy the outdoors.”
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Archery in the Schools Program teaches students the sport of archery using modern compound bows that will fit a wide range of users. Teachers and other school staff learn from the AGFC’s archery instructors how to bring this sport back to their students and offer them an alternative sport that children of nearly any size and ability are able to enjoy.
Visit www.agfc.com/anasp for more information about Archery in the Schools and a complete list of team and individual scores. More pictures from the event are available at the AGFC’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ARGameandFish.