Aiming for excellence: J.I. Barron archery team heading to world competition

PINEVILLE, La. (KALB) - J.I. Barron Elementary students have aimed for excellence all year long. The school's growing archery team won first place at the Southern Regional Tournament a few months back but didn't stop there.

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Some of the 4th and 5th-grade archers on the team qualified for the state and national competitions. But, for the first time, six Barron students are headed to the world tournament in Nashville.

"I have never done this," said archer Abby Beach. "It is my first year and I've gotten so far. I'm like wow, this is actually wow."

Beach and teammate Parker Rachal are two of the six, however, both picked up archery over the last year.

"I was shooting 250's in my first year," Rachal said.

"I didn't know archery was a thing at all until I did it in P.E.,” Beach said.

The nontraditional sport started popping up in Rapides Parish Schools over the last few years.

Coach Ellen Deloach, a hunter herself, started Barron's program. She was joined by Coach Randall Dunn who led teams at Northwood.

"Archery is a lifelong skill,” Deloach said. “So, it is something they can do. It teaches them honesty and integrity.”

It even paves the way to higher education.

"I've had some kids win some really good scholarship money,” Dunn said. “They get to use it when they get out of school, not necessarily just for college, but trade school."

This year, fifth-grader Austyn Taylor won $2,000 for college after he won second place during the state bullseye competition.

"I shot a 290 out of 300 on block and won that,” Taylor said.

He said the score comes with constant practice.

"I wasn't as good as I am now at first,” Taylor said. “But, I practiced a little bit and I got better."

The sport gives archers more skills than meets the eye.

"It has really helped me with my confidence because I used to be really shy and scared to get out there,” Beach said. “Archery is like since I’ve gone all this way, it’s actually not bad to do other things and get out there."

Now, thanks to their coaches and team they are ready to take on Nashville, one arrow at a time.

"They never doubt you, they are just awesome,” Rachal said about his coaches. “They are the best."

The team will head to Nashville at the end of July.

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