Dead-Eye Eagles: Archery club puts Georgia Southern on map

Photo: Christal RIley

Bryan Marseille

Swiping through the 14-page document on his iPhone, Daniel Allen only wanted to see if he placed.

With barely a year’s worth of archery experience under his belt, the pre-med senior was stunned when he reached the bottom of the list.

Not only did he beat last year’s champion, he finished top three in the nation.

Allen and Rachel Luoma represented Georgia Southern with pride last month, placing third in the 2014 US Collegiate Archery Association (USCAA) National Indoor Archery Championship’s Basic Bow division.

Before he took the national stage, Allen admitted to coming from humble beginnings.

“The closest thing I had to a bow and arrow was a piece of twine tied to a stick in my backyard,” Allen said.

In 2012 he left that backyard and came to GSU, where he met Luoma. Together they joined the archery club and shot recreationally. Allen started competitively indoors last January, but said he noticed his growth as an archer in outdoor competition.

“I went from shooting arrows into the sand to hitting everybody’s target except mine,” Allen said. “Hitting the stand and losing arrows was more than enough motivation to get better.”

Luoma, a senior in the pre-veterinary program, is a veteran compared to Allen, with 10 years of archery experience. The Colombia County native got her start in the fifth grade when she joined the 4-H club with her older sister.

Competing throughout middle school, Luoma stopped in high school and taught classes in local summer camps. Through her second year of collegiate competition, Luoma has racked up numerous national, state and local titles.

While Allen showed exponential improvement since joining the club, Luoma said her improvements were more gradual, as she had to relearn proper shooting form and technique.

“I’ve increased my score over 100 points in indoor competition, which is decent,” Luoma said. “I didn’t reach my [points] goal in Nationals, so know I can do better.”

Georgia Southern’s Recreation Activity Center (RAC) was more packed than usual from Feb. 28 through March 2. With over 130 participants from eight different colleges, the tournament featured four different divisions: recurve, compound, bowhunter and basic bow.

Unlike their other collegiate counterparts, Georgia Southern’s archery club does not receive scholarships to compete. Scholarship or not, the duo proved their worth through skill in what both consider the hardest division.

“All three other categories have some sort of a sight, like a rifle,” Luoma said. “In bare bow, the more traditional style, we’re like ‘ehhh, I think that’s where I’m supposed to be aiming.’”

“When you’re scoring around the same amount as the other rounds, that’s when you know you’re good,” Allen said.

Trophies and accolades considered, the two agreed that mingling with their opponents is the ultimate reward. From tournaments stretching from Statesboro to Utah and competitors from Texas to California, Allen said the diverse people with different outlooks on life make the trips worth it.

“We’re all just college kids with the same problem, same issues,” Allen said. “Archery brings together a diverse group of people you wouldn’t meet otherwise.”

Students, faculty and staff of all skill-levels are encouraged to join the club for the sake of having fun according to Luoma. Their next tournament will be Saturday April 26, 2014, as part of their “Friday Night Light” series.

The club will also take a journey to Long Beach, Calif., in May for the United States Intercollegiate Archery Championships.