Charli Long is mastering archery and, more importantly, her “process,” while shooting in competition.
Long proved it in May, the month she finished middle school, by grabbing the overall female champion title in the National Archery in Schools Program Eastern Nationals IBO 3D Tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. The Benton Middle School eighth-grade student’s arrows found their mark for a score of 298 out of 300. It was her personal best
“When I run the process, it usually calms my nerves. I run it mentally while I’m shooting, everything I do, like stance, hook and grip, setup, (draw to) load, anchor, pausing, expanding, (release) and follow-through,” Long said, a month before starting school at Benton High School.
A national title eluded her one year earlier when she fired a 292 but finished runner-up to overall champion and Benton Middle School teammate Savannah O’Donahue’s 295. Long emerged victorious in her return to Louisville in 2023.
“It felt good, especially after last year,” she said. “I was also surprised because I never shot that high.”
Long also won the girls middle school division bullseye competition with a 296 and was one of four Louisiana girls in the Top 10 in the middle school division at the prestigious meet in Louisville.
On the road
The 14-year-old Archery in Louisiana Schools standout has stepped to the line to shoot out-of-state in Myrtle Beach, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Louisville. Louisiana archery competitions take her into many cities in the Sportsman’s Paradise, including New Iberia, Port Allen and Baton Rouge.
Two Louisville experiences in two years opened the Longs’ eyes.
“The Louisville tournament is the biggest one,” Charli’s father, Tony Long, said. “It has the most kids. It’s in a huge area. It can be very overwhelming for new kids. I think I’m more stressed.”
A 56-year-old RN at Ochsner in Shreveport, Tony Long has been proud of his daughter ever since she struck out on tryouts for the middle school team her first year. She didn’t give up, practiced and succeeded in tryouts for the middle school team the following year. She hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s pretty impressive. I don’t know how she does it,” he said, adding he shot as a coach during this year’s state tournament and, well, it wasn’t pretty.
“I don’t know,” he said. “She didn’t get it (archery prowess) from me. They have steps at the beginning and she’s very methodical and focused on what she’s doing and she takes her time. She’s usually the last one to get off the line.”
Charli got into 4-H, Junior Olympic Archery Development and also started shooting at Hoot & Holler Archery LLC in Bossier City under the guidance of coaches Chip and Kathleen Hemphill. At Benton Middle School, she was coached by Terri Streetman and Autry Lowry.
Closer to home
Before going to nationals, Long and her Benton Middle School teammates captured the ALAS State Bullseye Tournament title in April in Shreveport. Sixty-four schools (elementary school, middle school and high school) and 1,451 student/athletes competed in the state tournament.
Charli said she enjoys every practice, which is four to six days a week, and every competitive outing.
“I try to shoot about 150 arrows,” she said. “I usually try to shoot enough good arrows for an efficient practice.”
The meets, big and small, keep the adrenalin flowing as she strives to stay on top of her game, which, has resulted in 60 medals, 14 plaques, three huge trophies and $9,000 worth of college scholarships.
“I get to meet new people and I get to travel a lot,” she said.
High school graduation is still four years away. Nevertheless, Long plans to go to college, hopefully on an archery scholarship, and for now has her eyes set on Texas A&M. Her dad said she has shot there several times in her brief archery career.
She’ll continue to rely on her “process.”