Alabama’s Student Archers Excel at National Tournament

Alabama’s Student Archers Excel at National Tournament

For the first time in the Eastern National Tournament of the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), a student archer shot a perfect score of 300 to take top honors in their division. That feat was accomplished by Gunnar Couch, a seventh grader from Grand Bay Middle School in Mobile County, during the event held in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 9-11, 2024.

For his first place finish in the overall high school division, Gunnar received a $1,000 scholarship and the opportunity to compete for a $5,000 scholarship at the NASP Championship in Daytona, Florida, on June 6-8. In addition to shooting a perfect individual score in the bullseye portion of the tournament, Gunnar placed third overall in the IBO/3D Challenge (animal shaped targets) with a score of 295 out of a possible 300 points.

Grand Bay Middle School Athletic Director and archery coach Matthew Perry said the hard work Gunnar put into archery this season paid off for him.

“I was pumped he finally got it,” Coach Perry said. “He worked so hard this year, and on the biggest stage he stepped up and did it.”

Gunnar said his goal throughout the season was to shoot a perfect score.

“After I shot my 300, I honestly couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I’d told my dad when we were walking to my flight lane that I was about to go shoot a 300. Actually doing what I said I was going to do felt awesome. Doing it at nationals made it 10 times better!”

Another first place finisher from Alabama in the tournament was Makynzie Thompson, a fifth grader at Dawes Intermediate School in Mobile. She took the top spot in the overall elementary girls division with a score of 292 out of a possible 300 points. Makynzie also received a $1,000 college scholarship for her first place finish and the opportunity to compete for a $5,000 scholarship at the upcoming championship in Daytona.

Coach Jenny Jernigan said Makynzie has grown not just as an archer but a leader as well in the two years she has competed with the Dawes archery team.

“She puts forth tremendous effort on and off the range,” Coach Jernigan said. “She is great at helping her teammates learn their strengths and weaknesses and encourages them to take it one arrow at a time. We couldn’t be more proud of her work ethic and determination to meet and exceed the goals she sets for herself!”

Not only did Makynzie make a strong showing at the tournament she overcame an injury to do so.

“I was so proud of myself for scoring my highest at nationals and bouncing back from hurting my shoulder a few months before,” she said. “I am so glad to represent my school, my city, and my state. I really love archery because it’s a sport that I really connect to and love.”

More than 15,500 archers from 31 states competed in the NASP Eastern National Tournament. Of the 724 students from 38 Alabama schools in attendance, three school teams from Alabama and six individual archers placed in the top 10 of their respective divisions.

“I want to congratulate all of Alabama’s student archers who worked hard throughout the season,” said Chris Blankenship, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “The dedication to both archery and academics they have shown this season will serve them well as they continue in school and throughout their lives.”

In team competition, Irvington’s Alma Bryant High School took first place in the overall high school division, Causey Middle School in Mobile took fifth place in the overall middle school division, and Cullman Middle School placed sixth in the overall middle school division. For taking first place in the high school division, each of Alma Bryant’s 24 student archers received a $750 scholarship.

Other Alabama archers making the top 10 in their divisions include Lilliana Smith, fifth grade, Dawes Intermediate School, fourth place, elementary school girls division, with a score of 284; Cason Tarver, fourth grade, Saraland Elementary, fourth place, elementary school boys division, with a score of 285; Lana Bearden, sixth grade, Ashville Middle School, second place, middle school girls division, with a score of 290; Logan Taylor, eighth grade, Dawes Intermediate School, eighth place, middle school boys division, with a score of 290; Talah Coleman, 10th grade, Alma Bryant High School, fourth place, high school girls division, with a score of 295; and Hadley Johnson, ninth grade, Alma Bryant High School, sixth place, high school girls division, with a score of 294.

The majority of Alabama’s student archers who attended the event this year are classified as Academic Archers. The NASP Academic Archer program recognizes students who maintain high academic achievement while enjoying the sport of archery. Student archers are nominated by their coaches to be included in the program. Since the program began in 2015, Alabama has consistently ranked in the top five participating states.

Several Academic Archers from Alabama who participated in the NASP Eastern National Tournament were also chosen as members of the Academic All-American Team including Makynzie Thompson, Dawes Intermediate; Cason Tarver, Saraland Elementary; Lilliana Smith, Dawes Intermediate; Gunnar Couch, Grand Bay Middle School; Logan Taylor, Causey Middle School; Easton Cook, Saraland Middle School; Hannah Wray, Central Christian Academy; Talah Coleman, Alma Bryant High; and Hadley Johnson, Alma Bryant High.

The NASP was founded in Kentucky in 2002 and has since spread around the country. In Alabama, NASP is a joint venture between ADCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division and the Alabama Department of Education. The program uses the lifelong skill of archery to teach discipline, concentration and teamwork as part of a school’s physical education course or after-school program. Scoring is based on Olympic International style, target archery in three divisions – elementary, middle and high school. Competition is on team and individual levels.

To learn more about Alabama’s NASP, visit

ADCNR promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. Learn more at