By Devin Golden
As two local archery programs enjoyed continued success, another hit the mark on its first try.
Competing in the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Georgia Region 4 Championships this past Saturday, host Woodlawn Elementary School, Bagley Middle School and North Murray High School each won its division and earned a spot in next month’s state tournament.
Now there are hopes of a sweep for the Murray County pipeline.
“It would be a dream if all three teams could win state this year,” Woodlawn coach Brad Bates said.
In the high school division, North Murray claimed a region championship in the program’s first competition. Using shooters who gained experience while participating with Woodlawn and Bagley’s programs, the Mountaineers scored a 3,109. Southeast Whitfield reached the state tournament last season by default due to being the only high school program in the region. This year, the Raiders scored 2,835 to finish second.
All teams who did not finish first can receive slots in the state tournament, but only via an at-large bid. They will be given once all of the state’s region tournaments are complete.
“Some of our kids, our new archers, that was their first competition ever,” North Murray coach Meredith Ellington said. “That’s exciting. We have some new kids, a new program and a new coach.”
Now the Mountaineers will compete against nine other teams at state, which takes place March 13 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry.
“We were the fourth region tournament held,” Ellington said. “If you look at the scores from the first four region tournaments, we were the highest.
“... We’re going to win state, for sure. Our archers are so determined and dedicated.”
Woodlawn scored a 3,282 — the highest tournament score in program history and the highest team score at the tournament, regardless of age level.
The Timberwolves, who started an archery program in 2008, have a chance to win their fourth consecutive state championship. In 2011, they won the NASP national championship. In 2010, Woodlawn finished third at nationals but first at the world championship. This year’s nationals event will be May 10-11 in Louisville, Ky. The world championship is scheduled for June in St. Louis.
“We’ve never won state, nationals and world in the same season,” Bates said. “We’ve won it in the same year, but not the same season. You’ve got to get one under your belt before you can think about the others.”
Braxton Bates, a sixth-grader and coach Bates’ son, scored a 291 for Woodlawn and earned two individual awards, the boys elementary champion and the overall region champion. The Timberwolves’ Tucker Hemphill, last season’s region champ, shot a 284 and finished second overall, while Case Winkler (282) finished third.
Alyssa Laviana led the Woodlawn girls with a 277 to win her second consecutive individual region title. Shelby Goodrich (273) finished second, and Aubrey Coker (271) finished third.
The Timberwolves’ JV team finished second, scoring 2,612. Brannon Nuckolls (237) and Mallie Rich (236) led the squad.
Murray County’s Northwest Elementary finished third, scoring a 2,576. The Wildcats — in their first team competition — were led by Kobe McCall (249) and Parker Burris (241).
In middle school competition, Bagley scored a 3,040, good enough to win its second consecutive region title.
Intracounty rival Gladden, a new program, scored a 2,851 to finish second among middle school teams. Gordon County’s Ashworth (2,549) finished third.
Bagley’s Braves have a chance to win their third consecutive state championship, and it’s not all old hands doing the work toward that title. Coach Brittnee Slaughter said she has both veterans and first-year archers in her lineup.
“A few of my kids have had a bow in their hands since they were little,” she said. “I think they just want a sense of accomplishment in something new and exciting.”
She said the success is because of the dedication the student-athletes have shown.
“I think it just comes from them working hard and having a passion for archery,” Slaughter said.
In the middle school division, Haley Bagley led Bagley with a 291, took first place in the middle school division and was the top female archer at the event. Teammates Sarah Parker (276) and Katelyn Griggs (257) were second and third, respectively. Gladden’s Cobi Autry (256) finished fourth among the girls.
The Braves’ Kyle Brock scored a 275 and won the boys title in the division, while teammate Cole Herndon (263) finished third. Gladden’s Garrett Hayes won second place among boys with a 265.
In the high school division, North Murray’s Daniel Vennett scored a 277 and finished second, while teammate Rodney Ray (273) finished third. On the girls side, North Murray’s Morgan Ray shot a 265 to claim first place in the division. North Murray’s Christina Hall (257) finished second and teammate Jada Johnson (257) took third.
Southeast’s Tyler Jones scored a 280 and won the boys individual region championship. Billy Young (271) also helped the Raiders.
At the end of the event, Bates won a one-shot tournament for a cash prize. Woodlawn’s Logan Maness finished second, and Young placed third. Goodwich (fourth) and Woodlawn’s Robbie Linginfelter (fifth) and Bianca Carillo (sixth) followed.