At the largest archery tournament in the world, Frankfort’s Mary Aldridge made her presence known.
Aldridge won the girls middle school championship and was second overall among the female competitors at the NASP (National Archery in Schools Program) National Tournament earlier this month in Louisville.
The tournament drew a field of 7,804 competitors, the largest field ever for an archery tournament.
It was Aldridge’s third trip to the national tournament, where she placed fifth last year in the girls middle school division.
Pretty impressive for someone who took up the sport four years ago.
“I saw a friend doing it and I decided to try it out,” Mary said. “It was really cool.”
“She took to it like a fish to water,” said her father Robert Aldridge, the archery coach at Westridge Elementary. “She took right to it. She started a little slow, they all do, but by the end of the year she was placing at tournaments.”
At the national tournament Mary shot 295, which is her average. She won the state tournament earlier this spring with a score of 298, hitting the bull’s eye 28 out of 30 times.
It was the fourth time this year she’d shot 298. A perfect score is 300.
Westridge competed at the national tournament, and team member Brandon Aldridge placed fourth in the fifth grade male division with a score of 289. Brandon is the first male archer from Westridge to place at the national tournament.
Brandon won the same division at the state tournament with the same score.
Westridge placed 28th as a team at the national tournament, its best finish at the event.
Mary just completed the eighth grade at Bondurant and will be a freshman at Western Hills this fall.
She’ll keep competing this summer but in a different environment.
Mary has turned her focus to the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD)/USA Archery Outdoor National Tournament, which will take place the last week of June at Joyce Park in Hamilton, Ohio.
There she will get to compete alongside some of the best archers in the country, possibly even some of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team archers.
“She’s done so well in the school program she’s ready to try something else, just to see how she competes at that level,” her father said. “Plus she really loves the recurve bow.”
A Genesis bow is used in the school program.
“It’s harder to pull back,” Mary said of the target recurve bow. “It has a different feel, you use different muscles. It’s a little heavier.”
This will be Mary’s first venture out of the school program. In the JOAD program they shoot from as far as 70 meters. In the school program it’s 10 and 15 meters, shooting 15 arrows from each distance.
“My goal is to do better than I have before,” Mary said.
At the national tournament Mary won a $5,000 scholarship, a gold bow, a bow case, trophies, two plaques and a couple of hats. The top finisher among the female competitors shot 296, one point higher than Mary.
Mary was also named to the NASP/Army National Guard All-American team.
The tournament drew competitors from 35 states, including 27 from Alaska, and that’s part of the sport’s appeal for Mary.
“You get to compete against other schools and see so many different faces from so many different places,” she said. “We shot next to a team this year from Ringer County, Oklahoma.”
In October Mary will be traveling to Orlando, Fla., to compete in the NASP World Tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. This will be her fourth trip to the world tournament, and she placed in the first three in which she competed.
For her father, archery has another appeal.
“It’s really a life-long sport,” he said. “It’s for anybody, and they can compete or do it for fun.”