By Peter Vankevich
The state high school girl’s archery champion Hannah Belch, an Ocracoke School tenth-grader along with two other island student qualifiers, are headed to Louisville, Kentucky, in May to compete further.
Belch earned her berth in February after winning the North Carolina Wildlife Resources National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Eastern Finals National tournament after scoring 275 points out of a possible 300. She also was first in the 10th grade division and third overall out of 240 total competitors.
She placed second last year in the same tournament after only several weeks of instruction since the program had only begun in November 2017.
Three other Ocracoke students qualified to compete in the Mother’s Day weekend tournament.
Alan Doshier ranked third in the high school division, first in the 11th grade division and ninth overall.
Hayden Austin ranked eighth in the high school division, fourth in the ninth-grade division, and 24th overall. Ethan O’Neal ranked ninth in the high school division, second in the 11th grade division, and 29th overall.
Doshier and O’Neal will also travel to Louisville.
“We did incredibly well this year,” said Jason Daniels, the team coach. “Last year, we were hit by the flu and lost some participants. This year everyone was healthy, so we did a lot better.”
Unlike other sports that divide schools into conferences according to student enrollments, this tournament includes all schools regardless of size. Twenty-seven schools participated in the tournament.
Ocracoke’s middle school had enough students for a team, but the high school level, which requires 12 competitors, did not. So, the upper level students competed individually.
The middle school ranked sixth out of nine teams.
Emilia Jordan had the highest score for the team followed by Melanie Perez, Iris McClain, Christian Stevens, Danny Badillo-Palacios, Mariah Temple, Alyssa Bryan, Gabriel Brown, Elsie Kattenburg, Katie Kinnion, Jacob Daniels, Finn Kattenburg and Carter O’Neal.
Other upper-class students participating as individuals were Julian Bennink, Brandt O’Neal and Edwin Perez.
Daniels, the captain of the Ocracoke sheriff’s department and a life-long archer, began the program in November 2017 with Hyde County Sheriff Guire Cahoon’s blessing.
The school approved the program and the sheriff’s department funded the equipment, which includes bows, arrows, strings and targets.
Then Daniels, Deputy Blackburn Warner and high school English teacher Charles Temple became certified instructors through NASP, which promotes international-style target archery for students in grades 4 to 12.
For schools to compete in NASP activities, schools must provide a minimum of two weeks of training.
“To hit a bull’s eye, it takes high concentration, eye and hand coordination and patience,” said Daniels about skills involved with the ancient art of archery, and that is Hannah’s strong point.
“She’s very focused and concentrates,” he said. “That’s what archery teaches.”
To make the tournament trip fun, Daniels arranged for the group to visit the Rockin’ Jump Trampoline Park in Winston-Salem.
“It was a great opportunity for Blackburn and I to interact with the students,” Daniels said. “We played dodge ball, rock climbed and trampolined.”
Daniels thanked Gaffer’s for donating the proceeds from one of the popular weekly Team Trivia nights and the Ocracoke School Athletic Boosters Club for their support.