MOUNT WASHINGTON - Six Bullitt County archery teams were recently represented in the 2011 Kentucky National Archery in the Schools Program Championship where more than 2,500 students from 148 Kentucky schools gathered to show their stuff.
By the end of the competition, three local schools were ranked among the top teams in the state.
Eastside Middle, Mount Washington Middle and Bullitt East High School were counted at the top of the heap and now they’re preparing to take on some of the best teams in the country during the 2011 NASP Nationals set to be held at the Kentucky Exposition Center in downtown Louisville, May 13-14.
Eastside Middle had the highest rank of any Bullitt County team at the state competition, placing fifth in the middle school division and 14th in the elementary school division, while Mount Washington Middle placed 26th in the elementary school division and 25th in the middle school division. Bullitt East placed 22nd in the high school division.
Eastside archery coach Brian Eschman said the squad earned the recognition they received for their hard work and dedication.
Eschman said the team has improved by leaps and bounds since last season when they were ranked 17th at state. From 2010-2011 their collective score improved by about 200 points and they’re hoping to finish in the top three at nationals.
“They want to win and they expect a lot of themselves,” he said. “They’re great kids. They put in a lot of time.”
The team has practiced at least twice a week every week since November and most of the 54 team members spend countless hours practicing on their own.
With nationals around the corner, Eschman said the team was practicing hard with help from coaches Jim Skaggs, Joe Hall, Jim Morsey, Sean Link and Josh Dillard.
Among those on the Eastside squad most excited about nationals are eighth grader Marissa Eschman, 13, and seventh grader Emily Miles, 13, who were the only Bullitt County archers ranked among the top individuals at state.
Marissa, who placed 6th in the middle school girls category with a score of 288, has spent weeks practicing for nationals, attending every practice at Eastside and shooting every night at home in her parents’ garage or basement.
She takes every competition very seriously and she has excelled in nearly every shoot since the season began earlier this year.
Marissa took home first place in shoots held earlier this year at St. Gabriel, Bullitt East, Eastside and St. Aloysius.
Additionally she placed second at the 2010 NASP World Tournament in Orlando, Fla., making her one of the few Kentucky archers and the only Bullitt Countian to receive top honors from the international competition.
For her performance at the world competition, Marissa was honored by Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky General Assembly during a special ceremony held at the Capitol in Frankfort recognizing world medal archers.
There, Marissa was also presented a proclamation of commendation from state Sen. Paul Hornback.
Marissa first became interested in archery as a young child watching sister, Brianna and father, coach Brian Eschman shoot.
She picked up her first bow when she was 7, but didn’t compete until she joined the Eastside archery team in the sixth grade.
After graduating from Eastside, Marissa hopes to join the Bullitt East archery team and while it may be a few years away, she’s considering shooting in college.
As Marissa Eschman earned high marks at state, so too did Emily Miles, who was ranked 13th in the middle school girls category with a score of 286.
Miles had no idea she would do so well. Before the competition she hoped to shoot in the 270s range, but she was pleasantly surprised when she surpassed her own expectations.
“When I found out I was so happy,” she said. “I was really excited for my team because we really wanted to place in state.”
Though she was pleased with her performance at state and her team’s ranking, she was most excited to see how much she had improved since joining the team last year.
She shoots everyday at home in addition to the twice-weekly team practices at held at Eastside.
“It’s really addictive and it’s just a fun sport to be in,” Miles said. “You want to improve your score and do your best all the time.”
She credited her team and her coaches for much of her success, calling the squad “one big happy family,” adding that they encouraged one another and worked as a unit.
Miles was first drawn to archery last year after reading, “The Hunger Games” a young adult novel by Suzanne Collins about a teenage girl who is an archer.
“She was a very good shot and the book made her sound so cool. I thought archery was a cool sport to be in,” she said.
It was after reading “The Hunger Games” in the sixth grade that Miles tried out for her school’s archery team and was accepted.
Miles is looking forward to improving her shot with practice and she plans to continue shooting next year.
Coach Eschman said the determination, good sportsmanship and skill exhibited by Emily Miles and Marissa Eschman were characteristic of the Eastside archery team. Without those qualities and the dedication of the parents, he said the team would not be what it is today.
“There’s no substitute for good kids and good parents. That’s what makes your program,” he said.
Bullitt County archery teams have seen great success since their inception and Kentucky NASP Region 6 coordinator Kyle McKune, who works with Jefferson, Bullitt, Shelby, Spencer, Oldham and Henry County archery programs, said Bullitt County’s teams were among the most successful in the state and that reflected well upon the sixth region.
Prior to the state tournament, Eastside took home first place in the elementary school division, as well as in the middle school division in the sixth region tournament.