The new program, led by head coach Carson Cook and assistant coach Mark Graham, was brought in as a way to fill the gap left by cross county, which only competes in the fall.
“This summer, Mr. (Derek) Shumpert and I were looking to start some more sports for the school,” said Cook. “Some of the game wardens had talked with me about wanting to help start an archery program, and after I went to some of the training sessions, we decided it would be a good fit for our school.”
Much of the equipment for the new sport was purchased using a one-thousand dollar grant from Jackson, with the rest being covered by the PTO.
Enthusiasm for the sport from students was enormous as 51 kids tried out for one of the 24 coveted spots on the team.
“For Fairview Junior High, that is almost every kid,” Cook said. “They all had to have no grades lower than a ‘C’ and no major discipline problems and we still had that many try out.”
With victories over Guntown and Nettleton, the Cardinals are 2-1 on the young season. With a 2859 in their last match, they are shooting competitively with many the the high schools in the area.
“We have had lots of help,” Cook said. “From the PTO to Mr. Shumpert and the game wardens and also Chad Weaver, who is helping coach Tremont.
“Mr. Weaver owns his own bow shop and has come out here and given my kids tips and has made equipment and gear for us. He has helped me out a lot.”
The young archers sacrifice their recess every day for practice time and even came in to shoot two days during spring break.
Experience has also not been a factor as most of the kids on the team have had little to no previous interactions with the sport.
“A few had bow hunted,” Cook said. “But several of my top shooters are kids that had never shot a bow before.”
The success of the program has led to individual parents becoming involved as many have of their kids find that they are good at Itawamba County’s newest sport.
“One of my archer’s dad called and asked, ‘Is my daughter really good at this?’”, Cook explained. “I said, ‘Yes sir, she is.’He then went out and bought her a bow.”
That experience has been a common one as many of the parents have bought bows and targets for the kids to practice with at home.
The team’s biggest test so far this season took place last weekend when the Cardinals traveled to Jackson to take part in the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks state tournament.
While the official results were not available by press time, the Cardinals shot an overall score of 3008, breaking the previous middle school record of 2880. Kane Gillentine led Fairview with a team-high score of 274.
Zach Adams can be reached at 862-3141 or by e-mailing email@example.com.