The winner’s circle at the Eastern National Tournament of the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) overflowed with an impressive number of Alabama students.

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

Seventh-grader Gunnar Couch of Grand Bay won the high school division. The win was unusual in a number of ways:

Gunnar won the overall high school division even though he is only in the seventh grade.

He scored a perfect 300 in the bullseye competition — the first time a perfect score has been accomplished in the annual competition.

He had told his father that he was about to score a perfect 300, and then he did.

He shoots a bow and arrow but is named “Gunnar.”

Gunnar earned a $1,000 scholarship and a spot to compete for an additional $5,000 scholarship at the NASP National Championship in Daytona June 6-8.

In addition to shooting a perfect individual score, Gunnar placed third overall in the IBO/3D Challenge (animal-shaped targets) with a score of 295 out of 300 points.

Another first-place finisher from Alabama 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 received a $1,000 college scholarship for her first-place finish and the opportunity to compete for an additional $5,000 scholarship at the upcoming national championship in Daytona.

Not only did Makynzie make a strong showing at the tournament, but 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.”

In team competition, Irvington’s Alma Bryant High School took first place in the overall high school division. Each of Alma Bryant’s 24 student archers earned a $750 scholarship.

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.

Individual Alabama archers making the top 10 in their divisions included:

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;

Hadley Johnson, ninth grade, Alma Bryant High School, sixth place, high school girls division, with a score of 294.

Since the NASP program began in 2015, Alabama has consistently ranked in the top five participating states.

Alabama NASP is a joint project of the Alabama State Department of Education, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about Alabama’s NASP, visit here.

“I 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. “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.”

Jim ‘Zig’ Zeigler’s beat is the colorful and positive about Alabama. He writes about Alabama people, places, events, groups and prominent deaths. He is a former Alabama Public Service Commissioner and State Auditor. You can reach him for comments at

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