Louisiana’s back-to-back state champion high school archer consistently hits the highest color rings on an archery target, plays the prime notes as a high school trumpet player and has the powerful strokes of an up-and-coming high school swimmer.
The Pineville High School junior pegged the highest score, a 293, at the 2023 Louisiana Schools State Bullseye Tournament in mid-March in Alexandria. He scored even higher to claim the state title a year ago. Luke Ward confided he was surprised, pleasantly surprised, when he emerged as state champion in 2022.
“It really caught me off guard last year when I shot as good as I did,” he said about that 297, his personal best, at the state tournament in 2022.
Unfortunately, at nationals last summer in Louisville, Kentucky, he turned in a 287.
“This year, hopefully, I can shoot a lot higher,” he said about the national tournament scheduled to be held again in Louisville.
A perfect 300
By higher, Ward means a perfect 300. That’s where he has set his sights.
“At nationals coming up, I might be able to get it,” he said.
His recent state championship caught the attention of Southeastern Illinois College, which offered him an archery scholarship to the college in Harrisburg, Illinois. The senior-to-be said he’s considering the offer, but in the same breath noted the school is far from home in central Louisiana.
The son of Obie and Stacey Ward has been playing the trumpet approximately five years and he’s been on the swim team four years. He probably would be more interested in band in college and he’s thought about that, he confided.
But it’s a bow and arrow he’s had in his hands the longest. He’s been in love with the sport since he was a child.
The young all-around outdoorsman (who also likes to fish) started shooting with bow and arrow before entering the fourth grade. He began shooting competitively at Ruby Wise Elementary School on an archery team coached at the time by a great uncle, Triz McKneely, who further fueled his passon.
“I think whenever I started, I was kind of ahead because I’d shot before,” he said. “I got into it because, really, I liked shooting.”
Ward, who also has reached the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, an achievement he and his family are very proud of, said most of his archery shooting success can be attributed to “great coaches” in the past and present.
“Really, I think I’ve been coached to where I am now by some great people,” he said.
Jessica Guidry coaches the 29-member archery team at Pineville High School, he said.
Ward shoots with a Genesis bow and Eastin arrows. He hasn’t been bowhunting, but the deer hunter intends to hunt with a bow as soon as he gets the chance. He killed his first deer with a .308 Ruger bolt-action rifle on private land near Lake Charles and regularly hunts Kisatchie National Forest.
An Archery in Louisiana Schools (ALAS) official has said recently he is hopeful more high school archers get into bowhunting.
As a target shooter, Ward’s main strength is his ability to focus on the task at hand, he said. He calls it “clearing his head.”
“It’s making sure I’m focusing on archery, making sure I have a good draw, a good release, a good ‘shot picture,’” he said. “Honestly, it’s perfect repetition, arrow after arrow.”
As for his future in competitive archery, Ward said if the opportunity presented itself, he’d definitely consider — “if I can get to that level” — shooting in the Pan Am Games and, even, the Olympics.
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