AHEAD OF THE (RE) CURVE: Chandler third-grader Caden Eyestone is precocious with a bow
For a 9-year-old, Caden Eyestone of Chandler is unusually good at hitting a bullseye.
In May at the National Archery in the Schools Program national tournament in Louisville, Kentucky, Eyestone scored 289 out of a possible 300 and finished third in a field of more than 2,300 shooters in the elementary school boys' division.
What's unusual is that most third-graders don't even compete in NASP, much less qualify for the National and World tournaments. Fourth- and fifth-graders make up the elementary school division, and third-graders must get special permission from their school to participate.
Eyestone is younger than almost every other opponent and scoring higher than most of them. His finish at the national tournament was the highest of any third-grader.
A score of 289 is not that uncommon for older NASP participants but it is for a third-grader, said Jay Rouk, the Archery in the Schools Coordinator for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, which sponsors and helps fund the school archery programs.
“He is competing against everybody else in a higher grade and you would think at a higher skill level," Rouk said. ”The 290s is an elite score. A 289 for a third-grader? That's outstanding. You think, wow, one more point and we would consider him an elite shooter.”
Eyestone, who will be a fourth-grader in the upcoming school year, will now compete Friday and Saturday at the NASP World Tournament in Orlando, Florida.
He quite possibly will be the tournament's youngest contestant. He will be shooting against the best young archers from all over the world.
“Since we left Louisville, he has spent his entire summer behind that bow,” said Caden's father, Jeremy Eyestone. “He is serious about it.”
Jeremy Eyestone said Caden wanted to shoot a bow because his 15-year-older brother, Nathen, was part of the Chandler archery team.
“Monkey see, monkey do,” Jeremy said. “He started getting involved right off the bat in tournaments. He started doing really good and coach started noticing.”
Caden regularly shoots in the 280s and finished seventh in the elementary boys division at Oklahoma's state shoot last spring, but posted his best score ever at nationals, his father said.
“He was having a good day there,” Jeremy said. “He was locked in.”
A handful of Oklahoma students qualify to the NASP World Tournament each year. Neither the schools nor Wildlife Department pay to send competitors to national and world tournaments, so families either pay their own way or schools have fundraisers for their students and teams.
This year, Bray-Doyle and Zaneis are sending middle school teams, while eighth-grader Savannah Tedford from Community Christian and sixth-grader Nation Deavers from Elgin also qualified.
Only one Oklahoman has ever won the NASP World Tournament. Two years ago eighth-grader Mitchell Ritter of Ringling was the top shooter in the middle school boys' division. Ritter will be a junior this fall at Elgin High School.