With an increase in participation, that included more than 6,000 in the 2019 state championships, it appears the Archery in Mississippi Schools is growing in popularity.
According to AIMS director Waldo Cleland, “about 5,000 students competed in the state championship last year, and this year, it was closer to 6,600.”
Cleland said statewide participation in the program stands at more than 70,000 students, although not all of them compete. He also believes the growth will continue.
“It’s not going to shut down any time soon,” Cleland told news outlets. “It looks like it’s becoming more and more popular.”
Two schools are becoming dominant. Both Columbia Academy and Simpson Academy swept elementary, middle and high school competition in their respective divisions.
“It’s two (years) in a row, now,” said Mike Barber, coach of Columbia Academy’s archery group. “This is my fourth year, and we have eight state championships.”
Simpson Academy also swept its division, and it wasn’t the school’s first time to do so. Coach Chris Jones said his teams swept their MAIS 4A division in 2017, and he said the school’s strength comes from numbers and allowing all students to participate at some level.
“I think a lot of it has to do with we leave no kid behind,” Jones said.
Simpson Academy’s high school team set a record for the highest score ever posted by an MAIS team — 3,379 points out of a possible 3,600.
Simpson Academy also produced one of the top archers in the championship. Claire Polk, a 10th-grader, was the top female shooter in the state championship, and shared the overall honor by matching the score of 294 (out of 300) posted by Mendenhall’s Kyle Dement, the event’s male champion.