By Mark Maynard - CNHI News Service
March 27, 2013 —
Dustin Sexton isn’t a perfectionist, although that’s almost what it takes to be successful in competitive archery.
Sexton, a junior at East Carter High School, placed fourth individually at the state tournament earlier this week and the Raiders were 10th overall.
Not bad for a second-year team.
Sexton scored 296 out of possible 300 to force a shootoff for third place with four other archers. Two others scored 297 and shot it out for the state title.
During Sexton’s shootoff, he and another archer shot 49 of 50 and were forced to another shootout, this time to see who can get closer to the bull’s-eye.
“I was about 3 millimeters off from him,” Sexton said.
That was the difference between third and fourth. Of course, he was only one point off from being in a playoff for the state championship.
That’s how demanding competitive archery can be.
“Archery is very competitive in its own way,” Sexton said. “It’s not a physical sport, more of a skill-wise competition. I love competing and I take it serious.”
But when it comes to the one-on-one competing, Sexton said it’s a sport that’s much more friendly than the typical sports competition.
“Almost all the people I’ve ever met at meets around the state are always friendly,” he said. “You can walk up to somebody and talk to them. You’re happy when it’s over and congratulate them if they did better. That’s how it is.”
Sexton doesn’t shy away from physical sports. He’s also a member of East Carter’s district champion soccer team. The Raiders play a physical style of soccer. Sexton is also a member of East Carter’s track team, including the 4x800 relay that was fourth in the state last spring. With everybody returning, they hope to contend for the Class AA championship this spring, he said.
“We think we have a chance,” Sexton said. “I’m competitive in everything I do and so are my teammates.”
That goes for soccer, track and, yes, archery.
“Last year we did well for the first year (competing) in high school,” he said. “This year we improved 100-plus points. That’s a big jump. We plan on improving more.”
Sexton was the 14th Region medal winner for his class and also the top medal shooter overall. He said he’ll take aim on the state championship next year.
But even as into sports as he seems to be, Sexton said his main priority is “getting an academic scholarship. I want to study engineering at UK.”
Sexton has been used to a bow since he was very young while hunting with his father, Darren. Competitive archery started when he was in the eighth grade at East Carter Middle. He has been honing those skills ever since.
He said East Carter archery coaches Glen Bellew and Marc Dingee have been friends and mentors to him and anybody else on the Raiders team.
“As coaches they’re phenomenal and as people they’re phenomenal,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the top shooter or the worst shooter, they’ll take the time to make you better. They do it because they love it.”
Bellew said Dingee “coaches just as much as I do” and that much of the credit should be shared with Mark Hall, the coach of the middle school team. “They have a good program there and we get the kids already prepared,” Bellew said. “He does a great job.”
Bellew said the 10th-place finish was a nice surprise. The Raiders shot 3,353 in the state competition, a slightly better score than when they won the region with 3,340.
“Most of the schools down state are a lot bigger than us, like Trigg County and Henderson County,” he said. “We were happy with how we finished. We will be better next year; we only lose two seniors.”
The appeal for the sport, Bellew said, is that “anybody can do it. A kid who can’t do other sports can do this. They really start to like it and if they fall behind in school work, then they can’t compete. They work to get the grades up so they can get back with us. It’s like any other sport in that regard.”
While archery is very much an individual sport, it is also becoming one of the most popular sports around. A record number of 4,093 competed in the tournament earlier this week at the Louisville Convention Center.
Elementary, middle and high school students competed for individual and team awards. It was the 12th NASP state tournament held in Kentucky since the program began in 2001.
Archery is now a Kentucky High School Athletic Association (KHSAA) sport activity so the top five high school boys and girls and top three teams received KHSAA state championship awards.
“This is the first year we’ve sanctioned archery as a sport activity," said Mike Barren, KHSAA assistant commissioner. "We didn't want these kids to miss out on a part of the school community."
After practice rounds, each competitor shot 15 arrows from 10 meters and 15 arrows from 15 meters, for a total possible score of 300 points. Competitors shot additional rounds to break any ties.
The top finishers in the team and individual standings qualify for the 2013 NASP Nationals, to be held in Louisville May 10-11.
Sexton is very much a team player. One his best friends, Ryan Walker, shot a 294 at the state competition. His relay buddies are brothers Alex and Ben Napier and Kerrick Burchett. He wanted to make sure everybody got credit.
Archery, he said, is something anybody can do.
“You don’t have to be a skilled runner or super strong,” he said. “You just have to be willing to practice and get better. It’s starting to gain popularity and I think every school should do it.”
Sexton’s family is a large support system for him — father Darren, mother Cindy Sexton and grandparents Charles and Saba McGuire and Floyd and Mary Sexton, all from Grayson.