By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – The Water Valley High School archery team placed fourth in the combined 3A/4A division in the AIMS 2018 State Championship Series in Jackson after shooting an all-time school high score of 3,308 on April 3.
“I have never been happier for a fourth place finish,” an ecstatic archery coach, Steve Lindsey, reported after the match, adding that Water Valley had the seventh highest score out of all 85 high school teams that shot in the championship. This year marked the third since the sport was added to the lineup at the school and for Lindsey as coach of the team.
The record-setting score came when it mattered the most, at the state competition, and surpassed last year’s high score of 3,301 points that was also recorded at state competition when the team earned a second place finish statewide in the 3A category. This year the 3A and 4A schools were combined into one category and Lindsey said the larger category meant tougher competition for his team.
“The 3A and 4A schools are the toughest divisions in the state in archery and when they merged them we knew the competition would be more intense than last year. We were watching the scores during the tournament and I knew there were going to be some really high ones,” Lindsey explained.
Aside from shooting the best when it counted the most, Lindsey said last year’s season and this year’s season have little else in common.
“This year we started out shooting around 3,200 and then back-tracked,” Lindsey explained, which is different from the last two years when growth came during the entire seasons. Even though the team won all of their matches, Lindsey said he knew they would need to shoot over 3,300 to be competitive at the state level.
“And I would have not bet you a penny we would shoot over 3,300 after we hovered around 3,200 all year long,” Lindsey added. The momentum changed just before the North State Qualifier in Coffeeville as Lindsey said the scores started to climb. It wasn’t about the top shooters on the team getting better, instead is was a collective effort from the entire group.
The team score is calculated by taking the four highest boys’ scores, the four highest girls’ scores and the next four highest scores, regardless of gender. Tuesday’s score of 3,308 means the top 12 shooters averaged almost 276 points out of a perfect 300 score.
Nicholas Faust shot the highest score with 286 points, followed by Millie Eubanks with 283 points. Jasmine Chandler and Austin Davis both had 279 points.
“Nicholas was our top male and he has been solid all three years,” Lindsey said about Faust. “286 is his highest score, which is a great score.”
Eubanks was among the most consistent shooters on the team during the season, but Austin went from an average shooter to a top performer every week.
Lindsey also said Beau Pullen shot 278 points and also was a big contributor in the event.
“Beau did incredible, his bow was messing up bad the week before,” Lindsey added.
Lillian Lindsey and Jayla Murphy both shot 276 and also helped the team’s average.
“Lillian had her best day, she shot close to her highest score,” Lindsey said about his daughter, who struggled earlier in the season.
Lindsey said Jayla’s score was a big deal for the team after her scores earlier in the season ranged between 240 to 250.
“Jayla really works hard trying to be consistent and it paid off when it counted,” Lindsey continued.
The coach said a visit from three-time world champion, 15-time national champion bow shooter Buddy Durr on March 29 helped the team’s confidence at a critical time in the season.
“I think what really shocked the kids is that he told them the same thing I have been telling them every day,” Lindsey explained. “He told them to be consistent, to not be concerned about their score, and to concentrate and focus through the shot, still aiming until the arrow hits the target.”
Lindsey also credited the commitment for the entire team throughout the season.
“Those kids will leave the gym in pain some days because they have shot so many arrows. That’s something I can’t coach, that is something that comes from them,” he added about their commitment.
“I have never been so excited for a fourth place finish,” Lindsey reiterated.