Jackson Gunsolley, a fifth grader at Diagonal Elementary School, placed first in his age group with a score of 276 at the Iowa NASP Elementary State Championships in Des Moines on March 5.
According to his mother, Sarah Gunsolley, Jackson started his archery career just one year ago.
“At Diagonal, kiddos can start archery when they are in fourth grade,” Sarah said. “Diagonal is such a small, close-knit town and almost like family that it’s almost a rite of passage. We wanted all of our kids to try it.”
Jackson’s journey in archery didn’t start out great.
“Last year I was shooting in the 100s, and I was frustrated because my friends were shooting in the 200s,” Jackson said. “I even thought about quitting last year when I had a downfall, but then at the end of the season, I came up with a personal best. Going into this season I knew I was going to do a lot better and it sorted itself out from there.”
Sarah said it was fun watching his skills improve.
“This year he just really started clicking with understanding the concepts of archery, and he just continued to get his personal best as the season went on,” Sarah said. “The coaches have done it long enough; they kind of know the coaching tactics to use for the 10-, 11-year-old boys versus your seniors that are learning the sport or trying to improve their scores, so that definitely helps. He’s a very thoughtful kid as far as, if someone tells him to do something, he’ll try to really think about what they’re coaching him to do. I think that is in his benefit for sure.”
Jackson said it was nerve-wracking heading into the state competition.
“I was really nervous, so I was just trying to talk to my friends to get my nerves out, to get their nerves out, so that everyone would shoot their best so that our team would do good,” Jackson said. “I just couldn’t really believe it until it was over. I’m still kind of processing the fact that I won it.”
Sarah said watching him was awesome.
“Wild is the word I keep using,” Sarah said. “It was one of those intuitions, he just kept getting better and I was like, he’s going to go to state, kind of thinking that totally crazy scenario. It’s just wild. He’s been handling it so well, he’s been very humble and it’s been a great experience. We’re just so proud of him.”
After doing so well at the state competition, Jackson will be continuing onto the national competition in Louisville, Kentucky, on May 11.
Archers are scored based on how close the arrows land to the target’s bullseye.
“I didn’t know that if you were top in the state, you automatically got to go,” Jackson said. “When they told me, I was really surprised that I got to go. I’m excited. My classmate that shot with me is coming with me to support me and my other classmate might also be coming, so I’m excited about that. My coach said if it’s not settled in now, when you walk into the range, it’s really big and it will settle in when you get there.”
Jackson’s state results included:
Elementary Boys Rank: 1 out of 185.
Fifth Grade Boys Rank: 1 out of 122.
Overall Boys Rank: 119 out of 1011.
Score: 276, Tens: 13.