BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon-Upshur 4-H Archery Team member made his mark last month, capturing the top spot in the state at the virtual West Virginia State Archery Tournament March 25-27.
Elijah Bryant, a sophomore at Buckhannon-Upshur High School, shot a 296 out of a possible 300 during the W.Va. Archery in the Schools state tournament, snagging first place in the state for male shooters in the high school division. Bryant did so well, in fact that B-U 4-H Archery Team Coach Russ Warner said he believes Bryant will be a force to reckon with in state competitions for the remainder of his high school archery career.
“He has a chance of winning the state competitions for the next two years, and a real good chance of winning the Nationals,” Warner said in a recent interview. “They have Nationals here at the end of May, and he will compete in that this year. I shoot against him every practice, and he’s the first kid in 15 years that can beat me consistently; he’s just he’s just gotten that good because he practices all the time and takes it extremely seriously.”
Approximately 770 students from more than 50 schools participated in the virtual event, and each shooter shot 30 arrows at targets from two distances. Scores were then submitted online, according to an AP story.
Warner believes Bryant could be the first local high school marksman awarded a scholarship as a result of his talent and dedication.
“He’ll be our first kid in archery to get a full scholarship,” he said.
Bryant said he has been part of the team since he was in fifth grade and plans to stay on the team until he graduates from B-UHS.
“I’ve always loved the outdoors and shooting my hunting bow,” Bryant said. “This gave me something to do with the school and gave me a chance to compete with my bow. I’ve been to the national competition and the world Shoot, and I placed 40th in the nation my eighth-grade year and 70th in the world the same year.”
Warner said they weren’t able to practice very much before the tournament as a team, but Bryant always took the initiative to practice on his own time.
“The state had to shut down until the second week of February, but we’re also not just a school team; we’re a 4-H program, and the 4-H had additional restrictions, so because of 4-H, we weren’t able to start until that second weekend in March,” Warner said. “I just don’t know where you could find a better one than him right now in the state, and there’s probably only a few in the nation right now that could match him.”
Bryant said he was honored to place first in the state and hopes to get even better.
“It was an honor,” he said of his performance. “It surprised me a lot when I shot that score, but I love the sport. It’s an individual sport and it’s based off how much commitment you give to the team instead of how much the team gets along together, like football, and the kids who are shooting on my team I’ve shot with since eighth grade.”
Bryant also gave a lot of credit to the coaching staff.
“They’re great, and they always help the shooters out,” he said. “Anyone can just ask Russ (Warner) for help and he’ll go over there and set up a target and help them one-on-one. Dave Riffle is also a really big key part to the team because he helps with all the tournaments and helps us run practice while Russ is helping the kids.”
According to its website, W.Va.’s 4-H Shooting Sports program aims to teach young people ranging from ages 9-21 about how to use archery equipment and firearms in a safe, responsible manner. Participants also learn about of wildlife conservation.