It was an early Saturday morning for Pocahontas County archers as teams from across the state gathered at Pocahontas County High School for a day of competition. Beginning at 9 a.m., elementary school archers shot first, followed by middle schoolers at noon, with the high school competition beginning after 2 p.m.
Marlinton Elementary School finished second in its division, with an overall team score of 2,786 and two top-scoring individuals. Hannah Burks took fourth place in the Girls Division, with an overall score of 258 and nine 10-pointers, while Ryan Roy’s score of 259 and 11 ten-pointers earned him fifth place in the Boys Division.
Marlinton Middle School swept the board with an overall first place win and four high-scoring individuals. As a team, MMS beat out Peterstown and Buckhannon Upshur Middle Schools with a team score of 3,229. Individual scorers for the Girls were: Kelly Pyne – with a total of 275 and 13 tens – and Makenna McKenney – with a total of 272 and 14 tens – earned third and fifth places, respectively.
Max Ervine took first with a score of 280, 15 tens and 12 nines, while T.D. Sparks rounded out the top five with a score of 275 and 14 tens.
Although Pocahontas County High School doesn’t have an official archery team, six students competed as individuals and earned two top five rankings. Matthew Pritt took fourth place with a score of 279 and 14 tens, while fifth place was determined via a shoot-out.
Tying for fifth – with a shot-for-shot score of 279, with 13 tens, 13 nines and 4 eights – were Fayetteville High School’s Andrew Smith and Pocahontas County High School freshman Benjamin Davis.
According to Pocahontas County Archery coach Jody Spencer, a shoot-out was the last thing anyone was expecting. By the time it was announced, PCHS archer Benjamin Davis – along with the majority of the tournament’s competitors – had already packed up his equipment and loaded it into the car.
“When we next saw Ben, he was breathing really heavy,” Spencer recalled. “For a moment, we all thought he was excited and nervous, and we tried to help calm him down. He said, ‘I’m not nervous! I just had to run all the way to the car and get my bow.’
“He was out of wind from running to get his bow, but he pulled it together, and despite being under pressure, did a really great job for the last round. It was exciting.”
Davis won the shoot-out, defeating Smith with a score of 49-46 and securing his place in the top five.
Spencer and his wife, Rebecca, brought archery to the county three years ago following a conversation with a friend’s daughter.
Rather than restrict the sport to a specific grade level and limit the number of spaces available, Spencer and his wife made the decision to form elementary, middle and high school teams, and at their first sign-up, nearly eighty students – from schools across the county – showed up.
“I’d like to say it grew gradually,” Spencer joked, “but it didn’t. We jumped in with both feet.”
The number of participants has since decreased, but there is still strong interest among the 65 students who make up the 2015-2016 archers.
Only Marlinton Elementary and Middle Schools had enough students to form teams this year, but that did not stop PCHS students Benjamin Davis, Carlie Ervine, Jason Jackson, Matthew Pritt, Dalton Sharp and Taylor Tegtmeyer from competing as individuals.
“That’s one of the beautiful things about archery,” Spencer commented. “It’s an individual sport, but it’s also a team sport. Our six high schoolers are still able to shoot, still able to come to practice, and can still go the the tournaments. They just shoot and score as individuals. This gives them the opportunity to place in the tournament even if they don’t represent a high school team in the team division.”
Spencer talked about the advantages of competing as a team, as well. As with any sport, there are those who fair better than others, but by competing as a team, the students who do not excel as individuals are given an opportunity to still be involved, as well as assist in the success of their team.
The Marlinton Elementary and Middle School Archery teams, as well as Pocahontas County High School students Benjamin Davis, Carlie Ervine and Matthew Pritt, will travel to Charleston at the end of the month to compete in the 11th Annual State tournament. The tournament will take place Saturday, March 26, at the Charleston Civic Center.