MAKING AN IMPACT: W’burg archer Mason Manning aims for greatness and hits the mark as leader of local club archery team
Mason Manning is a soon-to-be senior at Williamsburg High School. Sports fans in the area may know him best for his time spent wearing a Yellow Jacket basketball or baseball uniform, but he has actually achieved the highest level of success as a member of the local Impact club archery team.
“I started shooting a bow mainly because I saw other people doing it. People like my dad,” Manning said. “I mostly just shot to hunt all the way up through middle school. I had never even really heard anything about competitive archery until my freshman year. I tried it at that time, and I really liked it. I bought a new bow, some new equipment, and started practicing a lot. Honestly, though, until my freshman year I had never even had an interest in competitive archery.”
For someone who has only been shooting competitively for a relatively short amount of time, Manning has done remarkably well. In the past twelve months he has won numerous state and national awards in the Scholastic 3D Archery organization (S3DA), including being named State Shooter of the Year, and also being crowned Outdoor Target National Champion earlier this summer.
“I put as much, or maybe even more, work into archery as I do anything else,” Manning explained. “Baseball has always been my thing really, but I will say that archery has grown on me more in the last year than it has at any other point in my life. I just find myself wanting to get out in the yard and shoot my bow. Every day I want to get better at it. I’ve always loved baseball, but the deeper I get into this, and the more opportunities that I see coming at me, I would definitely say that it’s top priority right now.”
Of course, any high schooler winning national titles in their chosen sport or activity is sure to catch the attention of many colleges from around the country. Manning is no exception, and while he says that he definitely has the desire to move on to the next level, he is mainly focused right now on continuing to add to his already long list of awards and accolades as a member of Impact.
“I’m the old guy,” Manning said of his club team, which is made up entirely of archers living in the tri-county area. “I’m the senior, while the majority of our team members are younger students; elementary and middle school kids.”
To simplify how a season might look for Manning and his teammates, they will begin by shooting indoors during the winter months, transition to shooting 3D targets outdoors in the spring, then then move on to outdoor target shooting to finish out the year in the summer.
“When the season gets rolling I’ll start shooting inside during the winter,” Manning explained. “You work so hard at that, and you polish your skills to shoot indoors, but then the next thing you know it’s rolling over into spring, and you’re changing disciplines. You’re changing how you go about doing things. In archery, you definitely have to learn to take things in stride. It’s constantly changing. It flies by faster than anything I’ve ever done.”
If you find yourself thinking “there’s much more to this archery thing than I thought,” don’t worry, you’re not alone.
“It can be kind of hard to keep up with archery,” Manning said. “It kind of flies under the radar, and a lot of the reason for that is because it’s so all over the place. It’s going on all the time, year round. It can be hard to keep up with it.”
Regardless of whether it’s indoors, outdoors or which type of target, Manning and his fellow archers have to remain dedicated to constantly improving their skills with a bow and arrow. Like pretty much any other sport or activity, the only way to truly excel is through persistent practice.
“I know that I’m coming up on my last year shooting as a high schooler, and I’ve got some pressure on me to do as good, or better, than I did last year,” said Manning. “What I’d really like to do is win a few titles that I haven’t been able to win yet. I’m more excited right now than I’ve ever been, because I feel like I’m better than I’ve ever been, but there’s always something that you can get better at. You just have to put the time in. I’m super-eager. I just want to continue getting better, and be as proficient as I can.”
Another part of competing at a high level is learning how to deal with adversity, and that is something that Manning knows all too well about. When his journey to an eventual national championship title was really getting kicked into high gear, he suddenly found himself sidelined with a serious hand injury.
“During my sophomore year I broke a bone in my hand while I was playing basketball,” Manning explained. “I ended up having two titanium screws put in, and a cast put on that completely covered my thumb. That’s what I was pulling my trigger with, you know? So, I was wondering, ‘How am I going to shoot?’”
To make a long story short, he learned to pull the trigger with his pinky instead of his thumb until the hand fully healed.
“We all thought ‘There is no way this is going to work,’” said Manning. “But it did. My first 100 shots shooting with my pinky I was almost as close as I was before I broke my hand. To make that work was maybe the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
FYI, He later went back to pulling the trigger with his thumb.
It will be a few months between now and when Manning will once again be shooting competitively, but he knows that time will arrive sooner rather than later. When it does, he will be ready.
His hope is to once again contend for state and national titles, but he is also keeping in mind the big picture, saying, “You don’t have to be third, second or first in the nation to get an education while shooting a bow in college. That’s what everyone’s biggest misconception is. You don’t have to be the best kid in the nation. It takes 20 or 30 to make a team.”
In his final year as a member of the Impact club archery team, Manning wishes everyone the very best of luck moving forward into the future. He also gives special thanks to coaches Kris Strebeck, Mark Elam, Cody Kirby and Mark Whitt. Special thanks went out as well to Big South Fork Outdoors in McCreary County, to his father, Chad, and finally, to anyone and everyone that has ever supported him in his many pursuits as an archer.
To find out more about the S3DA organization, visit them online at www.s3da.org. For more information on Impact Archery, search for them by name on Facebook.
Photos by MARK WHITE