Local News

May 9, 2014

North Murray archery coach injured in wreck on way to national competition

Twenty-four state champion archers from North Murray High School will enter national competition this weekend without the coach who launched their program two years ago. Meridith Ellington is recovering from non-life-threatening injuries after a car wreck at the North Bypass and Veterans Drive in Dalton around 8 a.m. Friday, officials said.

Ellington’s husband, Derek, was driving their Jeep Grand Cherokee as they prepared to head to competition in Louisville, Ky., when a woman in a Nissan Cube failed to yield and turned left in front of them, said Dalton Police Department spokesman Bruce Frazier.

Both Ellingtons were taken to Hamilton Medical Center by ambulance and released the same day, officials said. The woman cited in the collision for failure to yield, Jazmine Alejo, 23, of Dalton, was taken by her husband to Hamilton Medical Center to be checked out, Frazier said.

North Murray Principal Maria Bradley said students were being driven by their parents for the National Archery in the Schools Program and were not with the Ellingtons. She said the coach is expected to recover from significant bumps and bruises but isn’t well enough to join the team this weekend. Her husband suffered a broken arm. Shooting coach John Bagley said the situation is frustrating for Meridith Ellington who wants badly to join the team.

“It was a tough, tough accident,” Bagley said. “It’s a miracle that somebody didn’t lose their life.”

North Murray’s bow and arrow shooters have built a legacy. Archery took hold in Murray County Schools several years ago when students at Woodlawn Elementary School began a program, eventually becoming two-time world champions for their age group.

When those students moved up to Bagley Middle School, supporters there started a program at that school so they could continue with their sport. For the past two years, North Murray High School has had an archery program.

Bradley said the school felt some pressure to start a program with the students having such good records at the other schools, and she’s glad they did.

“Starting a program with world champions is not that difficult,” she said.

All three schools will have representatives at the national competition this weekend.

Bagley said Cohutta Elementary School in Whitfield County had team members who shot well enough to go to national competition, but because of some limitations in the number of shooters who can be accommodated there, they won’t get to go this year. Some 10,668 shooters are signed up to compete this weekend.

Bagley said the North Murray shooters will go through a couple of rounds of competition in an effort to shoot a perfect 300 score. That’s only been done a handful of times by anyone in national competition, he said, although a couple of North Murray students have shot in the high 290s.

Shooters stand at 10 meters from their target inside a large convention center about four football field lengths in size, he said. First they have a practice round, then three rounds that count. There are five arrows in each round. Next, shooters back up to 15 meters from their targets and again go through one practice round and three scoring rounds of five arrows each.

“To give you an idea how tough that is, only twice has that 300 been shot by anyone in the nation,” Bagley said. “We have a couple of shooters that, this week, one shot a 295 and one shot a 298, but once you get to nationals, the pressure is tough.”

The top five boys and top five girls in the competition will have a chance to shoot for individual scholarship money, he added. The North Murray team has already qualified to shoot in world competition in Washington state next month.

Bagley said the shooters have had excellent community support. Ellington, he said, is the administrative coach who made it possible for North Murray to have a team. Even though she didn’t know much about archery herself, she “has enough heart for the kids to take care of the administrative things” so the team could form, he said.

Bagley said he became involved as a coach because his daughter, Haley, is on the team. He said the sport has helped a lot of kids grow as individuals.

“It boosts so much the self-esteem of the kids that participate, and a lot of them don’t play other sports but they find that they can do this,” he said. “You watch their faces just light up. It’s like, ‘Hey, I found an identity.’”

North Murray students who will compete this weekend are Haley Bagley, Daniel Bennett, Nikki Blankenship, Bailey Coker, Kyler Evans, Christina Hall, Dylan Hayes, Garrett Hayes, Andrew Hooker, Steven Ingle, Hunter Jennings, Jada Johnson, Devin Long, Samuel Maddox, Haley Pack, Willie Pierce, Brittany Plott, Michael Plott, Austin Roderick, Alexis Sliter, Brennen Slone, Jackson Stinnett, Brandon Wells and Trey Williams.

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