PETERSTOWN – The James Monroe boys basketball team famously brought a WVSSAC state championship to Monroe County in March. But it wasn’t the only state title won in Charleston by a Maverick this spring.
Carolyn Clarkson, who is a freshman at James Monroe, collected a state championship in the 2022 WVDNR Archery in Schools State Tournament on March 26. She will advance to compete in the national tournament, which will be held in Louisville, Ky. May 12-14.
Clarkson’s individual state title was actually her second. She also won it as an eighth grader last spring while shooting in a virtual statewide format dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Last year we were virtual, so it was completely different from going to Charleston and shooting at the stadium [this year.] Last year we were shooting at home in the gym, ”said Clarkson, who watched the Mavs win the Class A boys state championship at the Charleston Coliseum with her James Monroe classmates.
The state archery event was held at the Charleston Civic Center on the following weekend, Clarkson was not rattled by the crowded field of competitors.
Clarkson scored 289 out of a possible 300 points. She not only won in the 9th grade female division, she posted the third-highest score of any participant in the state tournament – male or female.
The overall state champion was sophomore Clay Tenney of Upshur County (294) followed by runner up Elijah Bryant, a junior from Buckhannon Upshur High School (292).
Clarkson is not only aiming to outshoot Tenney and Bryant’s 2022 marks next year – she’ll be trying to crowd or even exceed their state tournament scores at the nationals next month.
“It’s definitely going to be in the high 290s or low 290s [to win it] … I don’t think 289 is going to get me there so I’m definitely going to have to work a little bit harder, ”said the youngster, who is learning to balance the intense excitement of high level competition with a calm, steady approach that cultivates consistency.
“I try to just take deep breaths and think to myself,‘ You’ve been up here. You’ve done this many times. It’s just another arrow. ‘ You shoot each arrow one at a time and once you shoot one, you can’t get it back. If it’s a bad arrow, you just have to let it go, ”she said.
Archery is currently not a sport sanctioned by the WVSSAC. Instead, it is affiliated with the National Archery in Schools Program and, in West Virginia, it is sponsored by the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. Shady Springs, Summers County, Independence, Poca, Ripley, Riverside and other West Virginia schools have active NASP programs.
Archers in NASP compete bare bow [no sights] with standard regulation target bows in draw weights ranging from 10- to 20-pounds. Shooting takes place at 10 meters and 15 meters. Archers are allowed five practice arrows at each distance, after which they shoot three rounds of five arrows. A perfect score is 300.
A love of archery comes naturally for Clarkson, who started shooting in the fourth grade after watching her older brother compete. Call it a family tradition. Her late grandfather, John Woodson, actually co-founded the NASP-affiliated archery programs in Monroe County Schools, along with Barry Meadows — who still coaches the program — and Ronnie Crawford.
The target program is not explicitly tied to hunting sports, although Clarkson, who belongs to a hunting family, can see herself taking her archery skills afield at some point in the future. As far as formal archery competition goes, she’d like to integrate it into her long-term educational plans.
“I’d love to take this as far as I possibly can. I could take this and go to college with it… maybe even the olympics. But I’m just a freshman right now, so I’m just trying to make sure I’ve got good grades and things like that, ”she said with a light chuckle.
“I’m going to continue competing and treating it as a serious sport and looking for schools that have [archery programs] when I get to college. Yeah. I plan on taking this to college, ”she said.