The Morgan County 4-H Compound Archery Team medaled at the 2018 4-H Shooting Sport National Championships, June 24-29, in Grand Island, Nebraska, while representing Georgia. Team members Jake Furgerson, Matthew Russell, Timothy Smith, and Will Woodard competed over a long three days with Russell placing fifth and Smith placing eighth overall individually. The county team that wins the state tournament earns the right to represent Georgia at Nationals. With Russell winning first individually at state and Smith earning fifth, the Morgan County archers managed to beat out Lowndes County for the state title in May under Head Coach Danny Pincus and Assistant Coach Andy Vaughters. Although many states create all-star teams compiled from the top four individual shooters statewide, our young men performed remarkably well, receiving national recognition individually and as a team for their hard work and many hours of training.
Pincus recalled, “The first day was a practice day, and that was really windy. The wind kind of died down the next day when the tournament started, but every day after was increasingly windy.”
Furgerson, who has shot archery for eight years, stated, “It was up to 100 degrees up there but there was no humidity, so that wasn’t a problem, but the wind definitely was.”
Russell, the team’s top scorer at state after competing in the sport for nearly three years and shooting for almost nine, went into Nationals with an inflamed muscle in his shoulder: “Before I went up [to Nationals], I didn’t even know if I’d be able to draw my bow back. So, I was just concerned if I’d be able to [do that] and shoot somewhat close to how I usually do. I didn’t tear anything; it was just really, really sore. I went to a physical therapist who told me I’d more than likely be fine, but I should rest it. So, I had my arm in a sling and prescription medicine. Thankfully, that worked enough that I was able to shoot through it and shoot all of my arrows.”
Each day consisted of a different category of competition: FITA, Field, and 3-D. Teams are divided so no two team members are on the same target. Instead, each person shoots on a target with people from other states.
“It was a really fun week,” Woodard stated. “Being with my teammates, we got closer as a team the longer we were out there. My favorite part of the whole thing was being able to meet people from all over the country – one day I shot with somebody from Montana, Mississippi, and Oregon. That was a really neat experience. Everybody was wonderful. I never met a bad person when I was up there. I’m actually keeping up with some of the people I met.”
FITA – an acronym for the Fédération Internationale de Tir à l’Arc, a group formed in Poland in 1931 that promotes archery globally and changed its name to World Archery in 2011 – is the form of target shooting involving a 10-ring target scoring from one to 10 points with an extra ring in the center known as a 10X, used for breaking ties (Worldarchery.org). The distances shot in FITA for 4-H Seniors (ninth to 12th grades) are 60, 50, 40, and 30 meters. At Nationals the team placed second with Smith taking the first-place individual title and Russell ranking fourth individually.
Woodard shared, “It was pretty neat getting to watch my teammates go up on stage at a national level and win. When Tim won first in the FITA round, I was really proud that he got up on the podium for that one.”
Field, another form of target shooting at varying known distances up to 60 yards away, was shot on the second day of the tournament. With Smith taking sixth and Russell earning ninth individually and Furgerson and Woodard finishing strong, the team placed third.
The last day of shooting was reserved for 3-D, a type of competition that simulates hunting, using foam animal targets set at unknown distances up to 50 yards from the archers. Shooters must do their best to gauge how far away each target is, which is not easy as competition organizers may use the terrain to make this process difficult. Scoring is based on the International Bowhunting Organization (I.B.O.) that assigns points according to “kill zones”. Essentially, each animal target has an area delineated on it that would produce the most instantaneous and painless “kill”. Theses zones may score 11, 10, or 8 points with 5 points for hitting the target outside of the “kill zone”.
“3-Ds was our team’s biggest challenge. The organizers set up shots on a lot of uneven footing, and there were lots of long shots,” Pincus stated.
Woodard, who has shot archery for nine years, recollected, “They had an extremely good course. The 3-D course was one of the best courses I’ve ever shot. It was a lot of fun and had a bunch of neat tricks in there – some of them were shooting between trees, some were shooting up into trees, they had all different kinds of animals, and shooting off of platforms.”
While the team was unable to outshoot as many other states as they had in the previous two days, they finished Nationals as the tenth team overall. The cumulative rankings are calculated by the percentage of points throughout the three days. With Smith and Russell staying between one, eight, and ten points of one another in each component, Russell earned fifth individually overall while Smith won eighth.
Of course, not all of the week was spent shooting arrows. The team toured the Hornady Manufacturing Company and the Sturh Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. Hornady, an ammunitions factory, showed their manufacturing process from making gunpowder to finished products, including packaging and labeling, while the Sturh Museum gave them a look at tools and equipment used by pioneers.
“We also saw lots and lots of corn,” Woodard joked.
Russell and Furgerson shared that some of the highlights of the week occurred after shooting was done each day.
“They had all the 4-H archers meet up, and we got to talk and do different stuff,” Russell remarked. “The competition organizers actually rented out a waterpark for us to go to, and that was really fun because we had the whole waterpark to ourselves with all the 4-H competitors.”
Furgerson recalled another evening when everyone mingled and swapped state memorabilia: “I think there were 38 states represented (…) I talked to bunches of people.” He also mentioned, “[Archery is] one of those things that you commit to and then just don’t give up.”
“I’ve shot archery to challenge myself,” Woodard explained. “Archery is a sport that you don’t have to rely on a teammate for, so it’s something I challenge myself with, something that helps me focus.”
“[Nationals] was so much fun that a bunch of us are switching to recurve to go back next year, because you can only go once in each discipline,” Smith, who has shot for two and a half years, explained. “We’re going to get together soon to learn how to shoot recurve now and then have enough practice by next year to hopefully win state and go to Nationals again. It’s not going to be easy, but with good coaches it is possible.
“4-H is probably one of my favorite organizations for archery, because the coaches aren’t doing it for money. They’re doing it for the team, and everyone is so nice to each other.”
All of the 4-H archery coaches volunteer their time to undergo certification for the unpaid hours of instruction they provide to their archers. Pincus himself has coached for the past 14 years and is now a level four coach, a certification requiring a week of training in California.
Russell asserted, “[Our coaches” tried to teach us how to do it ourselves and get experience so that if we have problems like that in the real world we can sort them out. When I had my shoulder problem, they did everything they could to help me feel better and gave me support to where, mentally, I knew I could do it. I couldn’t be more thankful to have those coaches.”
The entire team declared that they had an amazing time representing Georgia at Nationals.
As Woodard remarked, “It was a great, very memorable trip.”