North Pontotoc wins school's first state title, aim at nationals

By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal

ECRU – Normally, a team in its first season of existence struggles.
That wasn’t the case, however, for the North Pontotoc High archery team. The Vikings dominated every event in their inaugural season and won a state championship – the school’s first state title in any sport – to top it off.
They left for Louisville, Ky., early Thursday morning to compete in today’s and Saturday’s National Archery In The Schools Program national championship. They will be the first Mississippi team to compete in the national competition.
“When we first started, we came out here and we were pretty good in practice,” North Pontotoc senior Amber Hall said on Wednesday afternoon from the North Pontotoc High athletic complex, “but we never expected to do as well as we did.
“We set the state record in our first competition, and just after that it’s (their scores) just been getting higher and higher. I think we’ve broken our own record about three times. At North half (meet), we came out and broke it again.”
The Vikings’ 3,166 team score at the North state championships on Friday was 203 points better than their score at their first competition of the season.
“A lot of our kids here do competitive archery shooting and things like that with 4-H,” said NPHS coach Joe Waller, who also serves as the football team’s offensive coordinator. “We got kids who are used to doing this kind of thing, but on a school level it’s kind of a new thing.”
One of those North Pontotoc shooters to have previous experience – but not that much – is sophomore Gage Davis. A couple of years ago, he received a bow for Christmas, and last year he competed in the Sportsman Bonanza in Tupelo.
“I shot with the bow that I have at my house and won,” Davis recalled about last year’s Bonanza competition. “But that’s about the only competition I’ve been in with a bow.”
Austin Merritt, an avid hunter who bow hunts every once in a while, has shown steady progress since his first practice round.
“We came out here and I shot a practice round and did pretty well,” Merritt said. “I then started practicing a little bit more every day and now I’m where I’m at right now.”
Merritt said Davis, Hunter Coleman and himself are usually the top three North Pontotoc shooters at each event, with Merritt and Davis being “neck to neck” in every competition.
“Austin Merritt and Gage Davis have been our most consistent boys (archers) all year,” Waller added. “They usually shoot in the high 280s out of a possible 300 (perfect score).
“Amber Hall has been our high scorer for the females all year except for one meet. Right behind her, we got Brook Forrester who’s been one of our high scorers every meet.”
Waller added that his team uses a minimum of three girls every meet, who are very skilled and consistent shooters, and that has been extremely important to his team’s success.
Freshman Marley Williams has been one of those consistent shooters, but what’s really been a pleasant surprise is the emergence of sixth grader Madison Carnes. Carnes was the second best girls shooter in the state last week.
And going back to the North Pontotoc team as a whole, last week’s meet at Lewisburg High School only goes to show how dominating the Vikings have been this season. Eight of the top 10 boys shooters in the state were from North Pontotoc, while four Vikings girls archers finished among the state’s girls top 10.

Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572
or john.wilbert@djournal.com