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MOUNT WASHINGTON - Two dozen Eastside Middle School archers shot for the stars recently as they competed with teams from around the globe in the third annual National Archery in the Schools Program World Tournament.
When the competition was over, the Eastside squad was sitting on top of the world.
With a score of 3,288, Eastside finished a close second to the Ohio state champion team, Logan Hocking Middle School, which scored 3,319.
One of the teams Eastside defeated was two-time and defending world champion, Anderson County Middle School.
Prior to the competition, former Eastside head coach Brian Eschman said his team was hoping to place among the top three.
Eschman said the team didn’t shoot as well as they had hoped, but they fought hard and finished well.
“It’s awesome,” Eschman said. “I’m so happy for the kids.”
Eschman, who took the team to world as his last hoorah before becoming Bullitt East’s archery coach, said the squad realizes how close they came to winning and they want to be on top next year.
Eastside ranked seventh in last year’s world tournament with a collective score of 3,168.
Eschman said the improvement shows Eastside’s bright future in archery.
“They’re in excellent shape for the future,” he said. “They’ll probably have as good a team if not better as this past season...I expect them to keep rolling and do better next year.”
Eschman said if Bullitt County archery programs are ever going to advance there need to be elementary teams, which is why he and others are working on starting a couple of elementary programs in the east end.
“You cannot ask for a better sport for kids,” he said.
Though none of the archers on the Eastside squad placed individually, a few archers were ranked in the top 20, including Katelyn Heppler, Emily Yoakum and Jade Harris.
Harris was Eastside’s top shooter with a score of 284, which contributed to the team’s second place finish.
Eastside held off the third place team by two points thanks to the sharp shooting from a couple of seventh grade archers.
Heppler and Yoakum both scored well enough to propel Eastside from second to first place during the first day of competition, before Logan Hocking Middle secured first place on the final day of competition.
“Archery is really a team sport. Even though we didn’t have any individuals in the top five, we finished in second place because we had quite a few really good shooters,” Eschman said. “To place second in the world you need a balanced effort, and that’s what we had.”
The team’s top 12 shooters had an average score of almost 275.
The team practiced two hours a day, twice a week, every week for two months before competing at world.
“They worked really hard,” Eschman said.
Eschman said he greatly appreciates the support the team has received from parents and the community, particularly from those who helped make the trip possible.
“That’s an expensive field trip,” he said. “It just shows their commitment to the program.”
Eschman said it’s also important to recognize the overwhelming support from the school and Eastside principal Bonita Franklin.
“Having the support from an exceptional principal like Mrs. Franklin has been important in the rise of the Eastside archery program,” he said. “Without her help and support we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today. She’s always been 110% behind the archery program and the kids and I appreciate that.”
Teams and individuals from Canada, New Zealand, Africa, and top teams from across the United States participated in this year’s World Tournament.
Eastside was one of eight schools from Kentucky that participated in the World Tournament.
“The kids had a great time and they represented Eastside, Bullitt County, and the state of Kentucky very well,” Eschman said.
NASP promotes international-style target archery, aimed at improving educational performance and participation in the shooting sports among students.
The NASP World Tournament was held at the Walt Disney World ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in central Florida.
For more information about the NASP World Tournament or to see individual and team scores, visit nasptournaments.org.