When Coach Brian Richmond stepped to the firing line next to him at archery practice, Ayden Alcorn admitted to some nervousness. Richmond shot a better round. But in a preview of what’s coming next week, Alcorn said he takes every shot in stride.

“Don’t look back at the last arrow,” said Alcorn, “look forward to the next arrow.” When he used to worry about a shot that wasn’t what he had hoped, “I’d always get down on myself.” Looking forward helps him make the next shot better.

He and other members of the archery teams at Northeastern High and Middle schools are looking forward to that next shot: their second consecutive appearance in the U.S. Eastern Nationals round of competition for the National Archery in the Schools Program. Most came to a practice Friday. 

The 46 Northeastern Knights will be shooting along with 13,000 school archers in Louisville, Kentucky. The middle school team shoots Thursday, May 9, and the high school on Friday, May 10. 

They are aware that shooting well could lead them to a trip to the championship tournament June 6-8 in Daytona, Florida. High-scoring teams from the Eastern Nationals will be shooting there with the top teams from the Western Nationals. 

In 2023, the Northeastern High School team qualified for the championship tourney but could not attend.

Northeastern’s shooters are focused on this round.

Northeastern coach Brian Richmond celebrates with Dakota Booker during archery practice. Photo by Bob Hansen

Alcorn said last year’s Nationals “was probably the best experience I’ve had. Last year, I shot my personal best. Right now, I am looking forward to Louisville and to see how far we go.”

Noah Willett, a junior who went to Nationals in 2023, said, “The way we are shooting looks really good.” 

Seventh grader Addison Schubert led the NMS team at state, revealing that a challenge from her father helped her score 273 of a possible 300 points. Her dad, Michael Schubert, had told her that if she hit 265 or more, he would dye his hair Northeastern green. He did, and Addison said she’s aiming now at improving her score to 275 or more at the Nationals. Her dad said he hasn’t decided what to do if she hits her new goal, although he is shopping for a bow so he can take up the sport.

Ninth grader Dakota Booker said, “It’s going to be just so much fun to be shooting with the whole country. It’s a good challenge.”

Dakota and his twin sister Cheyenne Booker vie with each other as they shoot for NHS, said assistant coach Randi Robeson. She came over to listen in as Dakota talked about shooting, smiling as she leaned an elbow on his shoulder and said she wanted to be sure he wasn’t “talking smack” about her.

“Me and my brother are pretty competitive about everything,” she said. The top score among them “depends on the night,” with whoever is lower trying to beat the other next time. At state, Cheyenne scored the team’s second highest, 279 with 15 bullseyes, and her brother hit 271 with nine bullseyes.

The teams celebrated their season at school on April 18. Coaches praised the shooters and handed out awards.

Coaches and parents agree that seeing the young people work hard and make improvements is part of the reward of the long archery season. Practices start in the fall. If the teams go to the championship, the season will end in June.

Everett and Tina Koch, parents whose sons Easton and Bryson are on the middle school team, said it’s hard to keep the kids going to practice when spring sports and other activities beckon them. Still, they like coming to archery to be with their friends.

Assistant coach Tom Robeson said the NASP competition “is the best thing that’s happened to school sports. They should all be this way, where everyone is equal, everyone is on the same footing.” NASP, a foundation that helps provide the equipment, requires that every shooter use the exact same type of bow and arrows and trains the volunteer coaches and meet officials.

Tina Koch agreed, saying students can participate in archery who might not be a good fit for other sports. Son Bryson, Everett Koch said, “is 70 pounds, so he’s not going to be in football.”

Willett, who hopes to study cyber security in college and is in his third year as an archer, took up the sport just to have something to do. He shot a 257 at state, including seven bullseyes. 

“When I first started, I could barely hit the target,” he said. “To be doing this well now, I feel like I’ve really accomplished something.”

Updated May 1, 2024 at 12:58 p.m. to correct the dates of the Louisville, Kentucky competitions. The middle school team shoots Thursday, May 9, and the high school on Friday, May 10. 

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A version of this article appeared in the May 1 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Bob Hansen is a reporter for the Western Wayne News.