ORLANDO (AGFC) – Bailey Mason of Maumelle didn’t know where archery could take her when she was first introduced to the sport in her fourth grade physical education class, but after hard work, practice, and competition through regional, state and national tournaments, she took second place in the Elementary Division of the National Archery in the Schools World Tournament, July 22.
Mason, 11, was taught archery during her fourth grade PE class at Pine Forest Elementary as part of the Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program administered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
“I teach archery to all the fourth and fifth grade students during the first few weeks of the school year,” said Tonya Raborn, physical education teacher at Pine Forest Elementary. “We then have a meeting to talk with interested students’ parents, and students are given the opportunity to try out.”
After enjoying her first exposure at the school, Bailey tried out for the school’s team. She competed well during the 2016 season, which motivated her even more to pursue the sport. She practiced all summer on her own and came back to join the team in her fifth-grade year better than ever.
Mason finished second in the elementary female archer division at the ANASP state tournament in March, scoring 268 out of a possible 300 points. In May, she traveled with the Pine Forest Elementary archers to the NASP national tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, where she finished fourth in her division, posting her personal best score of 287 out of 300.
“The Pine Forest Elementary team has gone to nationals three times, and we qualified to go to the world tournament each time, but never got a chance to go,” Raborn said. “But with Bailey coming in fourth in nationals and scoring so highly, there was no way we were not going this time.”
Curtis Gray, ANASP coordinator for the AGFC says the biggest challenges for many teams that qualify to go to worlds is the added expense of travelling to Orlando, where the tournament is held, and its timing being during summer when many families are planning vacations.
“We’ve had as many as four of our qualifying teams attend the world tournament in previous years, but bringing a couple dozen kids to Orlando can be very expensive on a school.” Gray said. “Usually it’s up to the team or individuals to raise the money to make it happen.”
And that’s exactly what Mason did.
According to Raborn, Mason was the only team member that was available to make the trip to Orlando for the tournament, and she worked hard to gather the funds necessary for the trip.
“American Pie Pizza in Maumelle let us do a fund-raiser night at their restaurant for Bailey, and she sold Sonic coupon cards to raise money as well,” Raborn said. “We also held a car wash to raise money for her trip and we had quite a few people come forward to help sponsor it with individual donations. I really can’t say enough about all the people who helped make this possible for her.”
On tournament day, Mason buckled down and shot an impressive 285 of 300. Not her all-time best, but still exceptionally well considering the pressure of the event. The high score was enough to claim the second-place spot in the Elementary Female Archers’ Division.
“Even making to the nationals has become quite an accomplishment, and it’s getting harder every year to qualify for the world tournament,” said Gray. “Since we started ANASP in 2008, we’ve gotten archery back in the curriculum in 551 schools, with more than 57,000 students participating. We’ve gone from one state tournament to a regional tournament qualification round to earn a spot at shooting at the state level. And we’re working even harder to help make that transition from archery in the classroom to outdoorspeople who have an interest in hunting with those skills they are learning in school.”