A Northwood High School senior who has been perfect on every report card since kindergarten, still seeks perfection as a leader on the high school’s archery team.
Emily Waits of Lena, daughter of Steve and Maxine Waits, is focused on her last semester academically and on the archery range. One of the state’s most consistent high school archers started the year right by setting a new personal best with a 293 score on Jan. 21 at Tioga High School.
Her highest previous best score was 291, which Waits first shot as a sophomore. She hit that number once again before her senior year.
Waits, who has been accepted with a full ride to the Louisiana Scholars’ College at Northwestern State University, looks forward to her last few months as a high school archer. She wants to earn a berth with her teammates, or individually, to nationals in May.
Northwood High School qualified as a team last spring for the first time ever for the national tournament held in Louisville, Kentucky. After COVID-19 disrupted high school archery in 2020-2021, the 2022 trip was an exhilarating and rewarding expe-rience, she said.
Setting their sights
Waits and the Gators have their sights set on regionals but have stiff competition from defending state champion Tioga.
“They’re a really good team. They won it last year. Hopefully, we can win it this year. We’re aiming for it. We’re working with the kids to get their scores up,” she said, noting Benton and Haughton high school archery teams also are formidable challengers in Louisiana.
Waits, who has had a 4.0 GPA every year since kindergarten and scored 35 on her ACT, is looking forward to bringing her skill, Genesis bow and Eastman arrows to regionals and state as her senior year winds down. She has come a long way since she first got her hands on a bow and arrows.
“I started in the seventh grade. This is my sixth year,” she said, noting that her first coach, Randall Dunn, convinced her to give the sport a try.
Loved it from the start
Self-admittedly shy at the time, Waits wasn’t playing softball or other sports. She listened to Dunn’s pitch.
“He got me to try archery and I loved it from the start,” she said.
The Gators’ archers entered this spring season with a heavy heart. Melissa “Nikki” Daigle, their beloved archery coach, lost her battle against cancer in January at age 46.
“It was a shock to the whole school and the community,” Waits said. “She loved the kids and teaching them archery. We all loved Miss Cindy.”
Northwood’s archery team held fundraisers to help defray costs of chemotherapy treatments, she said. After Daigle was diagnosed with cancer at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year, Waits’ father stepped up to coach the team. The high school’s student-athletes rallied around him as they prayed for Daigle.
“All the kids responded well. I’m proud of them. Our scores have come up. It’s been great. I’ve always been involved in the team,” Steve Waits, who owns SRW Home Improvements LLC, said.
Younger sister, too
The archery team includes the Waits’ youngest daughter, Olivia.
“She’s been at it a couple years,” Emily said about her younger sister.
Both girls were adopted from their homeland in China. Their parents had to leave their home in Lena twice to go to China, once to get Emily when she was 16 months old and the second time to get Olivia at age 3.
Steve Waits, 60, is proud of the girls, starting with the oldest.
“She shot so well out of the box, I said she’s got natural talent,” her father said. “I didn’t teach her anything. And her sister’s doing very well in archery.”
Emily said the key to archery success is being in the right frame of mind.
“A lot of archery is mental,” she said. “You have to focus and tune things out. When I’ve shot my highest score I zone out and just rely on my muscle memory and instincts I’ve been working with.”
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