Skip to main content

Following Record-Setting Outdoor Performance, MC Archery Team Takes Aim at Spring Indoor Season

While the MC Archery Team transitions from its fall outdoor season to its spring indoor campaign, Bryce Burke has one goal: a top-three finish in the upcoming Vegas Shoot.
While the MC Archery Team transitions from its fall outdoor season to its spring indoor campaign, Bryce Burke has one goal: a top-three finish in the upcoming Vegas Shoot.

An image making the rounds on social media provides incisive commentary on the status of Mississippi College’s archery team.

In the photo, a pair of Choctaw archers walk back from a target, right in stride with two competitors from Michigan State, a public university more than 10 times the size of MC. The photo was taken immediately after Mississippi College had knocked the Spartan archers out of the mixed-team competition in a head-to-head matchup during the Outdoor National Tournament.

The photo – and MC’s performance – proves a point, according to John McDonald, MC’s head archery coach.

“It says that we have archers who can compete with anyone,” McDonald said.

MC Archery has definitely lived up to the hype. Against a highly competitive field of archers from across the country – including notable academic institutions like Michigan State, Texas A&M, and James Madison University, to name a few – the MC Archery Team placed seventh overall in the 2023 USA Archery Collegiate 3D Championship Oct. 6-8 at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve in Foley, Alabama.

It marked the team’s highest finish under the points system currently in use.

“It took a team effort to accumulate enough points for the seventh-place national finish and to remain the highest-ranked team in Mississippi,” McDonald said.

Three of MC’s four three-person teams advanced to the shoot-offs, and two archers – Abigail Veidmark, who finished fourth in the women’s bowhunter division, and Bryce Burke, who finished sixth in the men’s barebow grouping – placed in the Top 10 in their respective divisions. Teams from other in-state schools competing in the tournament included William Carey University (11th place) and Blue Mountain College (16th place). Michigan State had to take a back seat to MC once again, finishing in eighth place.

MC’s three-person teams that achieved a Top 8 ranking in their respective divisions included the women’s bowhunter unit of Veidmark, Emilia Miceli, and Ann Mabry Dean, which qualified third; the men’s barebow squad of Burke, Jake McConnell, and Dylan Mayo, which qualified sixth; and the women’s barebow team of Christina Glover, Lexi Harris, and Isabella Hedgepeth, which qualified eighth.

“That’s the first time we’ve had three teams qualify to shoot in the team round,” said McDonald, who has guided the MC archers since 2019. “It’s the most we’ve ever had to qualify to shoot at one time.”

The three-person teams line up against another squad in the head-to-head competition. Each team has two minutes to shoot three arrows into a target identical to its opponent’s. The team with the highest score moved on in the tournament.

Other archers competing for MC were Jack Spears, Zeke Griffin, and Collier Carlisle in the men’s bowhunter division, Ben Spears and Dalton Moore in the men’s open class, and Amy Snyder in the women’s open class.

The Top 10 finish was a breakout for Burke, who McDonald considers a potential star in the sport. The freshman pre-med biology major from Madison took up archery in high school and has demonstrated an affinity for the bow.

“I was looking for a new sport and had shot bow growing up, so I decided it would be something fun to try competitively,” Burke said. “Little did I know it would become such a major part of my life. It put so many people in my life and gave me so many opportunities. It helped push me to make the decision to go to MC, and I do not regret it one bit.”

His favorite part about the sport is the camaraderie – and the competitiveness.

“Without my team members, I doubt I would enjoy it as much as I have,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge of beating your last personal record. Nothing beats walking out of the range with a bigger number on your scorecard than at your last tournament. It shows that your hard work pays off and encourages you to do even more to get better.”

That drive will be valuable as the MC Archery Team pivots to a new format to start the 2024 spring season. The team will participate in the Lancaster Classic in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, during the last weekend of January and the National Field Archery Association’s “The Vegas Shoot” during the first week of February.

Switching from outdoor to indoor tournaments provides a host of challenges, McDonald said.

“You have to change your equipment, your arrows, even your sights sometimes,” he said. “We work year-round on our basics, fundamentals and shooting techniques. Then we use that in the outdoor tournaments and in the 3D tournaments.

“We just shift gears, change our equipment around, and get ready for the next tournament.”

Some of the MC archers to keep an eye on during the indoor season this spring include Miceli, who placed third in last year’s Vegas $hoot and won the Lancaster Classic two years ago; Veidmark, who will switch to the women’s bowhunter class for the Vegas $hoot; Burke; Zeke Griffin, a third-year transfer student from Hinds Community College; and Ben Spears, who will compete in an ultra-competitive class.

Burke said the change in environment from outdoors to indoors also provides certain challenges.

“Shooting outdoors was easier to me: You have no confines, and you shoot in groups,” he said. “You shoot at different yardages and have to instinctively aim. Shooting indoors requires precision and consistency. There is no room for error, and the pressure cracks down on you.

“When I practice, I tend to focus on trying to find a rhythm in my shooting. Once you find the repetitive motions that work, the sport becomes almost second nature to you.”

Because of class and lab schedules, some team members have limited time to prepare for the tournaments. To overcome this, McDonald provides instruction three to four days a week at the indoor practice range at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.

While teams are judged on their most recent performance, McDonald acknowledged no matter how well archers may shoot in the fall, it doesn’t guarantee a solid spring season.

“If you have your form correct, if you’re shooting correctly, you can transfer that to any shoot you go to,” he said. “That’s what we work on, and some of our archers who have been on the team for a while, like Veidmark and Miceli, have made their mark and had success.

”In archery, the more you practice, the better you’re going to be.”

Burke’s goal is to finish in the top three in his barebow class at the Vegas Shoot. Whether he achieves that distinction or not, participating in MC Archery has had a profound impact on his undergraduate experience at Mississippi College.

“Being an athlete is a blessing,” he said. “Without this sport, I would be someone completely different. It has changed me for the better, and that’s all thanks to the blessing God gave me.

“Without God, I wouldn’t have any of what I have now. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, and the opportunities to spread good sportsmanship have all been a blessing to me.”