By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
MADISON COUNTY —
When Ryan Long, 17, scored a perfect 300 at a Nov. 30 archery tournament, he was determined to win.
But, he wasn’t really thinking about winning, he was thinking about sleep.
“I was so wore out, I just wanted to shoot and go home,” said the Madison Central High School senior.
After he shot his last arrow, it took him a minute to realize what he had accomplished, Ryan said. “I thought it was impossible. I thought no one could do it.”
No one had ever scored a perfect 300 in an NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program) competition before, said Roy Grimes, NASP president.
Three males and one female student jointly held the record of 298, but during the more than 200,000 NASP competitions that have been conducted all over the world since 2002, Long is the first to achieve the score, Grimes said.
Ryan was presented with a plaque at the Jan. 10 Madison County School Board meeting by Grimes, who said, “That perfect score couldn’t have been earned by a more perfect young man.”
Winston Long, Ryan’s father and coach of the Madison Central archery team, describes his son as being “reserved.”
“Ryan shoots a perfect 300 and he’s excited, but he doesn’t go around ringing his bell all the time,” said Winston, whose son had already been awarded around $10,000 in scholarships because of his skills in archery.
With a GPA of 3.49 and an ACT score of 22, Ryan will attend the University of the Cumberlands next year as a member of its archery team.
He also has his eye on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he said, where he hopes to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
During a NASP competition, students get five practice shots and 15 competition shots at a distance of 10 meters and then 15 meters. This means, Ryan shot 40 arrows consecutively inside a target ring three inches in diameter.
“So, if you could count the practice shots, he really shot a 400,” said Winston, who is proud Ryan “achieved this out of diligence and through hard work.”
The key to his technique is to be consistent, and “you have to want to win — bad,” Ryan said.
His family had always been interested in hunting and outdoor activities, he said, so he gets plenty of target practice at home.
“We have pictures of him holding a bow when he was two years old,” said Julie, his mom.
The Kentucky Archery in the Schools Program was launched in March 2002 through the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife in 21 Kentucky schools, Grimes said at the board meeting.
"Our goal was to engage students in the educational process by getting them excited about something going on at school like archery class,” Grimes said. “We also hoped to get kids off the couch and outdoors to learn some skills that might be practiced in the outdoors.”
NASP’s goal was to implement the program in 120 schools and have 24,000 students participating in archery in three years.
However, the goal was met in just 13 months and now there are 11,000 schools in 47 states and 10 countries participating in the program. The name of the organization was changed to the National Archery in the Schools Program to reflect its growth across the world, Grimes said.
More than two million students took archery lessons from 31,000 NASP-trained teachers last year — that’s 55,000 more children than in Little League baseball, he said.
NASP holds the Guinness World Record for the largest archery tournament in history with 7,804 students — a record previously held by Mongolia.
“Kids tell us they like archery for three reason: It’s fun. It’s accessible to everybody — you don’t have to be tall, strong, fast or pretty to have success in archery. And they like it because they make new friends.”
Around 41 percent of NASP archers are female, and “this is the only sport that I know of where a grade school child can compete equally with a high school kid,” Winston said. “This county is full of champions.”
School Superintendent Tommy Floyd has been a member on the NASP board since its inception in 2002, and provides the board with information to ensure the sport is “kid-friendly,” Grimes said.
“Ryan, as great an archer as you are, before anybody can tell me what a great archer you are, they all tell me what a great young man you are,” Floyd told Ryan at the school board meeting.
Ryan enjoys being compared to some of the fictional archers he grew up admiring, he said.
One teacher called him “Legolas” (the elfin archer in Lord of the Rings). Others have called him Robin Hood. People ask him if he can shoot an arrow through a Cheerio, he said. The recognition “is pretty nice — I never expected it.”
His brother Bradley, 14, is following in Ryan’s footsteps after winning several archery awards, including Middle School World Champion Archer in June with a score of 296 out of 300.
“Anybody can do this sport,” said Ryan. “It’s not football or soccer; you don’t have to be the fastest or strongest. It just takes time and patience.”
Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie
or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.