Last fall, a new sport was added to Mississippi College’s outdoor program—archery. MC is the first college in the state to start an archery team. Since the team began this year, it has gained a little over a dozen charter members and has competed in several state and national competitions. For all those involved it has been a year of learning—for some, learning how to shoot a bow competitively; for others, learning how to lay a good foundation for a competitive team.
“Any new club sport team is difficult at start up. Archery is no exception. The decision to create the team was made in mid-August so we had very little time to prepare,” said the vice president for academic affairs Jim Turcotte, who also oversees MC’s outdoor sports programs. “The popularity of archery surprised me. Particularly, the popularity among female students. I knew the movie ‘The Hunger Games’ has been an inspiration for archery and females in specific. I did not expect to have several top-ranked archers the first year.” “
“We started out with no budget and no clue of how this was going to go, but overall, it’s gone smoothly,” Waldo Cleland, the MC archery team coach. Everyone has their strengths. Some are better at outdoor or indoor shooting, but they cover each others’ backs.” Cleland has coached numerous students on various levels of archery, but he said that MC’s team is “probably the best, most well mannered group” he’s been able to coach.
“We are very fortunate to have Waldo Cleland as our coach,” Turcotte said. “He is the best-qualified coach any college could hope to have. Coach Cleland has taken our team from the basics to national rankings in the first year. Our students know how to build and tune a bow. They are certified archery instructors and qualified to teach archery in high schools. They have learned how to set up and run archery tournaments. I believe we have had success beyond anything we could have imagined.”
For MC archery team president, Parker Battista, the year has been a pleasant surprise. “Starting a team and having people compete on the national level all in one year has been a challenge,” said Battista. “But the amount of people we have on the team has been a great success. I didn’t expect to be president when I came in, and it’s been a learning curve for sure, but it’s been really fun.” Battista hopes that the team will have more members competing on the national level in the future, as well as having strong competitors in indoor, outdoor, and 3D shooting.
While there has been a lot of figuring out logistics, the MC team has already made a name for itself in the archery world this year. They have competed and placed in several competitions this semester including the Jackson Regionals/Nationals and the U.S. Collegiate Archery Nationals. Last weekend, five team members traveled to Florida to compete as well. “We had a lot of fun and did good,” said Battista. “We won the Silver in mixed teams. The girls won Bronze in the female division.” Battista, as well as member Kesi McGloster, also placed in the regional awards for indoor and outdoor combined. In May, members will be able to compete in Nationals.
While the team has performed well, this year is considered a platform to improve. “It is my hope that we will see a significant increase in interest among our students to join the team next year,” said Turcotte. “I hope to attract a few of the top high school archers to MC in the coming years. I hope that we can one day have a team and individuals who are the best in the U.S. Who knows, maybe even graduate someone who can win an international award and maybe even an Olympian.”
Coach Cleland’s goals for next year include traveling more for competitions and possibly pushing for an archery range closer to campus so athletes have better access to practice. He wants the team practicing more as a whole in the future.
Recruiting members for the MC archery team will definitely be a priority in the next few years. “I am surprised to learn that the sport of archery levels the playing field between those with size and skill and others. This is a lifelong sport that will last well beyond college,” said Turcotte.
-Abbie Walker, Editor