Coach Rodney Estrada stands with some of the members of the Emmanuel College Archery Team. Team members pictured are (from left) Cassy Pelton, Emily Blake, Dusty Clark, Chris Luman and Adam Estes. (photo credit: Shane Scoggins and Franklin County Citizen Leader)
By Shane Scoggins
One is a member of the U.S. National Archery Team.
Two others recently lived and trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in San Diego, Calif.
Others have plenty of top-level archery experience and accomplishments and have realistic shots at reaching the top levels of the sport.
The one thing all of them have in common is that they are members of the Emmanuel College Archery Team.
Emmanuel College and Franklin Springs are now a destination spot for top archers.
"We are the biggest scholarship program of any college in the U.S.," Coach Rodney Estrada said recently.
The program is in its first year and will have 20 archers on scholarship by next fall.
Estrada was approached about starting the program after a Franklin County Archery Club Tournament.
He was hired in January and has hit the ground running.
"God moves in ways you don't understand," Estrada said.
Estrada is well connected in both the U.S. and world archery communities.
Estrada is a Level 4 National Coach and judges top level archery competitions. He was one of the judges that helped pick the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.
Those ties helped Estrada attract the level of talent on his first team.
Dusty Clark, Emmanuel's team captain, is a member of the U.S. National Team in compound bow.
The native of Gainesville, Fla., said he knew Estrada from competitions and was offered an archery scholarship.
At Emmanuel, Clark said he gets a full scholarship at a good school and can shoot and compete.
"That's an archer's dream," he said.
Emmanuel offers one-on-one contact with teachers and smaller classes, which he said he needs.
"We're not a number to them," Clark said. "We're a student."
That is a common sentiment.
Emily Blake is a freshman from Vermont who missed the Olympic team by a fraction of a point in recurve bow. She came to Emmanuel from the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Blake said there aren't many opportunities for archery scholarships. Emmanuel offered the major she wanted – pre-law for sports management.
"It really just fell into my lap," she said. "And I can shoot at the same time I'm in school."
Blake said she likes the warm weather here in the South and likes her teachers and classes at Emmanuel.
Chris Luman, who was with Blake at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, said he likes the atmosphere and college experience Emmanuel provides.
At the training center, Lumen said he shot from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. each day and then did weight training. School work was worked in when possible.
Emmanuel offers a more balanced approach.
"It's been kind of nice, actually," Luman said.
Now, Luman takes classes until lunch, then shoots in the afternoon before doing home work.
Adam Estes of Kennesaw said that he likes that Emmanuel's professors know the students well enough to check on them if they miss class.
"The archery opportunity here is fantastic so far," he said.
The team – which also includes Jeremy Burton of Clarkesville, Kaleb Dorow of Fort Collins, Colo.,Levan Onashvili of Tiblisi in the European country of Georgia and Cassy Pelton of Ludowici – trains at Estrada's private ranges in Lavonia. An archery complex is being planned for Emmanuel's campus with the help of Greg Easton of Easton Sporting Goods.
The group will compete in the Indoor World Trials in Newberry, Fla., in December. They will compete in national competitions in Texas, Florida and Ohio as well.
Estrada said the team hopes to graduate productive members of society first and place its members on national and Olympic teams.
"That's just gravy," he said.
Reposted with permission from Franklin County Citizen Leader Newspaper