Young archer dreams of Olympics

Amanda Rachel of The Oaks Christian School accepts her third-place award at the state Archery in Schools contest.

Amanda Rachel knows where she would like to be in three years: Rio de Janeiro.

That is the site of the 2016 Olympic archery competition, and the success the Summerville youngster has enjoyed in the National Archery in Schools program has given her that goal.

Rachel, who just completed the eighth grade at The Oaks Christian School in Summerville, recently finished sixth out of 1,235 female middle school students in the NASP Nationals in Louisville, Ky. She was 20th overall out of 10,000 students who competed. Rachel shot 290 out of a possible 300 and missed qualifying for the world championships by one point. In the state competition, Rachel finished third.

“I think it’s very plausible for her,” her coach, Jane Hartley, said of Amanda’s Olympic dream. “If we could find an Olympic coach that would be willing to coach her, I think it’s something she possibly could achieve.”

Amanda has just completed her third year in archery. Contestants shoot a total of six scoring arrows, three from 10 meters and three from 15 meters, using a compound bow.

“My first year on the team I thought I could try out. As the year went by, I got a lot better. Mom would take me to The Archery Shop (owned by Bud Westmoreland in Summerville) and I would practice every day,” said Amanda.

Amanda’s mother, Gail Rachel, said she probably nudged her daughter in the direction of archery because it was something she found interesting and that now all three of her children enjoy. Amanda’s brother, Joshua, who just finished the sixth grade, competed for The Oaks Christian School this year, while sister Lillian, who will be in the fourth grade, will participate next year.

NASP is funded through taxes paid for the purchase of sporting goods and is offered for fourth through 12th-graders throughout the U.S.

“We got involved about five years ago and since then have done pretty well at the state level,” Hartley said. “Amanda has been our shining star at the national level. Amanda joined us in the fifth grade.

“She’s real quiet, shy and did not have this huge circle of friends. But since she has come into the program we’ve seen her develop. Her abilities and talent started coming through, and you could see her focus and try harder to do a better job in school and on the archery team,” Hartley said. “Now she’s like this hero at our school.”

Hartley said the program is open to all students in the fourth through eighth grade at The Oaks School. While they generally practice at school, she said The Archery Shop has been helpful by allowing the students practice there.

Hartley said she had never shot a bow in her life until becoming involved in NASP. After going through a daylong instructional program, teachers bring equipment back to their schools for the program.

Teams can qualify for the state tournament in a virtual competition, shooting and then submitting scores. But this year, The Oaks began holding competitions with other schools, something that helped acclimate the students to bigger events.

Amanda isn’t the school’s only star archer. Emily Scianna, a fourth-grader, tied for first but was awarded second in the elementary school division. It was her first year shooting, Hartley said.