Darren Doyle, Edmonson Voice
You don't see a story about a middle school archery team in the headlines very often, but it's not often your local team becomes world ranked, especially in less than one full year.
"We're like the Bad News Bears," said head coach Chris Shelton, laughing. "We started with nothing... and we really shouldn't have been here."
The team just finished the season ranked 71st in the world after this past weekend's NASP World Archery Championship in Nashville, TN where the ECMS team competed against teams from the U.S. and 5 other countries.
Talk about humble beginnings...Shelton, who had previously coached at North Warren Elementary, said a few parents had asked Edmonson County school officials about putting together a local archery team and that Shelton might be interested. Soon after, officials along with Athletic Director Kyle Pierce contacted Shelton and things began to blossom from there.
"We started putting this thing together around September of 2014 and in about 3 months, things started coming together," he said. "The kids began to see that we could be a real team."
The team quickly began to gel, gaining confidence, and having fun, which led to a regional competition, then to state, which eventually ended up at the grandaddy-of-them-all, the world championships.
With the success of such a team starting from scratch and ending up with a world ranking, Shelton and his coaching staff, Wally Ritter, Darren Smith, and Keith Sanders (booster club president), have obviously done something right, but Shelton says it's all about the kids.
"I can't say enough about these kids," he said. "This really shows their heart and character. Out of thousands of teams, and we're rankied 71st in the world? It's unbelievable."
The team's top male competitor was Jarrod Sanders, who finished with an overall score of 1101. This ranked him in the top 10% of all 8th grade boys in the world. Adri Ray, the top female competitor, finished with a score of 909, placing her in the top 26%, worldwide.
So with these amazing results in only one year, where does the team go from here? "I'm really excited about next year's team," Shelton said. "No one knows what will happen, but it sure looks good. I'd say we're 2 or 3 years ahead of schedule."
Shelton wanted to publicly thank his coaching staff, parents, volunteers, sponsors, and all the supporters for everything done to help the team this past year. He noted how much it meant to the team that Supt. Waddell made the drive down to Nashville to watch the competition. "There are so many people and organizations we'd like to thank for everything, but especially Jim Wilkerson at Forks of The River Archery. We couldn't have done it without him."
Shelton said the scores, accolades, and experience has been great, but that the best part of all is seeing kids come into their own. "Many of the kids haven't ever played other sports or been in school clubs. They've come out of their shell and they're good young men and women that make our team and Edmonson County proud."
The Edmonson Voice salutes Coach Shelton, Coach Ritter, Coach Smith, Director Sanders, and all the fine boys and girls that make up the ECMS Archery Team. Way to go, and we look forward to covering more of your accomplishments in the seasons to come.