By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Mississippi College (MC) student John Thomas Stanford will compete in the largest indoor archery tournament in the world this weekend in Las Vegas – the 2018 U.S. Intercollegiate Indoor Archery Championships and the Vegas Shoot.
As a sophomore member of the MC archery team, Stanford is ranked seventh in the nation in the men’s collegiate compound division after winning the Southwest Regional Shoot in Jackson last month. Stanford’s score of 1,153 at the regional shoot earned him the national ranking and qualification for the collegiate shoot this weekend. He is also competing in the open portion of the tournament, The Vegas Shoot, where he will shoot against archers from across the globe in an intense three days of no error competition.
A 2016 graduate of Water Valley High School, Stanford made history two years ago when he signed a national letter of intent to attend MC on an archery scholarship, marking the first time a local senior earned a scholarship for archery. It also marked a first for the MC archery team, as Stanford and a classmate were the first two in-state recruits.
The scholarship followed years of practice and countless competitions as Stanford explained he has been shooting almost since he was old enough to walk, picking up the sport from his father, Lee Stanford. He grew up shooting bows that his dad made.
“The first big tournament I won was the 2012 IBO World Championship youth division, shooting with a bow my dad made for me,” Stanford recalled. He has also won multiple state championships. In recent years he switched from the traditional bows to compound bows, citing more potential for advancement in the sport using the compound bow.
The years of shooting made adjustment to the collegiate archery team seamless, as Stanford notes his team has three scheduled practices per week, two of which are mandatory.
“Some of us shoot every day, two or three hours a day,” Stanford said about the practice time, which can tally more than 20 hours a week. The hard work has also paid off for two of his teammates who also qualified to compete in the collegiate tournament this weekend.
His advice for a high school student interested in competing in collegiate archery is simple.
“Come to MC,” he said about his college’s team. “It’s a good program, it’s growing and we have made a lot of progress in the last couple of years,” Stanford noted.
He also recommended competing in local tournaments and getting as much exposure as possible.
“That way we can help you that much more once you get to college,” Stanford added.