Archers compete on national stage in Louisville

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Schools from around the country are in Louisville to test their archery skills on the national level.

For one archer and many of her competitors, the sport has already scored a bullseye for their future.

In the middle of a rowdy Kentucky Expo Center is extreme precision and focus. "This is the largest archery tournament ever held anywhere at anytime," said Tommy Floyd, Vice President and General Manager for the National Archery in the Schools Program.

Faith Oakley is among the sea of more than 15,000 archers from thousands of schools around the country. "She has big things in her future. She's one of the people that I love to explain and tout our program," Floyd said.

Oakley captivates crowds. "I just feel like I'm one of everyone else. So, when people come up to me and they say that I'm doing phenomenal or that I'm inspiring or something like that, I'm just like you. I just do something a little bit differently," Oakley said.

She was born without any feeling in her right arm. She was introduced to archery in the summer of 4th grade. "I was with my cabin, and they all went to the archery range at camp, and I didn't think I was going to be able to shoot, but my counselor offered to hold the bow for me, and then I could pull back and aim. That was actually my first arrow I shot, and it was a bullseye," Oakley said.

You could call it fate. "Just an absolute fluke, and I ended up falling in love," Oakley said. 

Her technique was almost immediate. "Sometimes after shooting a lot of arrows like at practice or something, I end up getting really tired. Just my jaw and my teeth just feel worn down, but it never hurts," Oakley said.

Now in her senior year at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, archery is still a passion for Oakley, as well as all of the students in elementary, middle and high schools.

"Even if they want to beat them and get that trophy, they're still encouraging people to do their best, and I think that's a huge part of why I love archery so much," Oakley said.

The National Archery in the Schools Program, or NASP, is hosting the competition. "Everyone needs something that they're good at doing, and when I get good at something, my self esteem grows, my confidence grows and before you know it, I'm trying to help you do better too," Floyd said.

Oakley emulates that. "If I'm doing something good, and I can help someone, to encourage them to do something that they didn't think that they could do, I'm happy," Oakley said.

Archery earned Oakley a college scholarship at Lindsey Wilson College. "After that, I will hopefully be training for the 2024 Olympics," Oakley said.

She's kept her eye on the bullseye all these years. "Make yourself a better archer and a better person," she said.

Per design, archery's giving these students a target on life.

The awards program for the competition will be held on Saturday afternoon.

Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.