Woodlawn archers on target for another world championship - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Woodlawn archers on target for another world championship

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Woodlawn Elementary's archery team practices Thursday moring before traveling to this weekend's world championships in St. Louis. Woodlawn Elementary's archery team practices Thursday moring before traveling to this weekend's world championships in St. Louis.
Fourth-grader Robbie Lingenfelter, son of Woodlawn coach Will Lingenfelter, aims his arrow during practice. Fourth-grader Robbie Lingenfelter, son of Woodlawn coach Will Lingenfelter, aims his arrow during practice.
Sixth-grader Brannon Nuckolls aims his arrow during practice. Sixth-grader Brannon Nuckolls aims his arrow during practice.

CHATSWORTH, Ga. (WRCB) -- It started as a shared interest between a few Woodlawn Elementary School parents.

Will Lingenfelter and a few friends had always loved to bow hunt, but there have never really been many outlets for archery as a competitive sport.

The group decided to form a team for the elementary school, joining the ranks of less than two dozen programs in the state.

"At that time, it was just something we enjoyed and we wanted to do it for the kids to see if they did, too," Lingenfelter said. "There were lots of things we didn't know."

Among them, how much interest there was in the little-known sport.

Brad Bates was able to recruit a few kids through his physical education classes to join the initial team in 2009. The rest were found through flyers and hallway conversation.

"I heard about it when I was in first grade. I wanted to do it because it was new and I wanted to try it," said Shelby Goodrich, who is now in seventh grade.

Brannon Nuckolls was also intrigued, yet intimidated.

"I just thought it was different and I wanted to give it a try, but it looked like it was so hard to do," he recalled.

For some it was.

Goodrich recalled shooting a score in the 70's during her early days. Now she averages better than 270 points in a 30-arrow competition.

However, the sport came a bit easier to a few others, including sixth-grader Christian Baldridge. He scored eight points on the first arrow he ever shot, then followed with a nine-pointer with his second (max is 10).

Still, he wasn't satisfied.

"I should have scored nine on the first one," he said with a smirk.

Four years after its inception, the program is a powerhouse.

Overwhelming numbers now turn out each year to try out for the 24-member team, so recruitment is no longer stressful. This year's roster ranges between grades three and seven with a good balance between boys and girls.

And they're all better than their coaches.

"When we first started the program, we could beat most of the kids when we shot. Now when we come in and shoot, it's not even close," Lingenfelter said humbly. "We realized the kids were coming every day to actually practice, while we just showed up to watch them and help them.

"Now the kids beat us every single time."

Baldridge can attest.

"When I beat Mr. Lingenfelter I always say, 'Better luck next time.'"

Turns out, Baldridge and his teammates say that to pretty much everyone.

In five years the group already owns four state championships (2010-13), two U.S. national titles (2011, 2013) and one world championship (2010). 

The latest U.S. crown came last month in Louisville at the National Archery in the Schools (NASP) competition, where the Timberwolves set a new world record for the elementary age group with a team score of 3,300.

This weekend they will compete in St. Louis for their second world championship, where a win would mark the first time the program has completed the four-for-four sweep of region, state, national and world championships in the same year.

Woodlawn placed third at the nationals in 2010 before going on to finish first in the world.

"If we win another one, we'll be the first archery team in history to win so many, so we need to win one more," said fourth-grader Luke Headrick.

But even without that win, the program has certainly hit its target by offering an athletic alternative and authentic team experience to enthusiastic kids who are not as drawn to so-called "mainstream" sports.

"The kids have absolutely flourished in this program," Lingenfelter said. "You can see it in the titles that we've won, but this has also helped in their academic performance and attendance in school.

"All of those things have been better for all these kids with the help of this archery program."

"It's helped their academic performance and their attendance. All of those things have been better because of our archery program. They have flourished in it."

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