Archers keep eyes on prize, place God, studies before medals
Liberty University third-year archery Head Coach Ben Summers prioritizes spiritual development and academic achievement over athletic success among his student-athletes.
“It’s always good to keep that real athletic mindset, but we also have a really academic mindset, too,” Summers said. “We’re really trying to make sure that people realize that they’re here for an education first, but they’re also here to compete at the highest level.”
Incoming freshmen Kayla Cassady, Samuel Deel, and Gage Inge from Liberty Christian Academy committed to Liberty’s archery program in May. They will strengthen the Flames and Lady Flames after helping the Bulldogs place second at the National Archery in the Schools Program Open Championship, an indoor event featuring more than 3,000 archers held in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in late June.
“They have an incredible team and I think that over the next few years, we’ll see a lot of athletes come through that program and they are excellent,” Summers said. “LCA is a really good proving ground and training ground for Liberty athletes.”
Liberty also received commitments from two semi-pro archers from the ASA ranks — Jadalynn Cooke from nearby Madison Heights and Austin Harrell from Chesapeake, Va.
“Austin had a choice between Virginia Tech and here and actually chose (Liberty) because of the archery program,” Summers said. “Jadalynn was looking for a good nursing program, so she ended up choosing Liberty (over JMU) because we have everything she wanted. I love JMU, too. Those guys are awesome over there, but I’m really proud that she chose our program.”
Additionally, Lilly Coddington from Wisconsin and Kalee Pino, a USA Archery Junior Olympic Development competitor from the Richmond, Va., area, are two more outstanding recruits.
Summers is expecting more than 30 archers to try out for this year’s team Aug. 23, 24, and 26, and plans to keep at least 24 on the travel roster as they gear up for the Oct. 16-18 USA Archery 3D National Championships in Foley, Ala.
“We’re going to take everybody I possibly can,” Summers said. “We have a great university with great facilities and we have a huge pool of athletes that we’ll be able to pull from. I hope that a lot of them will be able to travel with us and just learn how to be the best archers in the world.”
He noted that the competition in USA Archery continues to improve and the Flames and Lady Flames are up for the challenge of shooting with the best.
“There’s a crazy level of competition we’re up against, teams that recruit from the very best,” Summers said. “At nationals, we’ll be competing against programs that everybody on their team is either semipro or pro. Last year, one team had five pro archers on the team and none of them made the podium.”
In indoor nationals, the Lady Flames faced a female archer from Grand Canyon University ranked No. 1 in the world and finished one spot behind her in fourth place.
“It’s really exciting to actually see collegiate athletes be able to compete at the highest level in the world,” Summers said. “I hope that they will keep shooting (after college) and also learn how to be good people in the process.”