On the mark 10-year-old Vincent finds success on archery range

Published 12:04 pm Friday, July 30, 2010

A small herd of animals stands silent watch over the trees next to Garrett Vincent’s house.

One deer poses over a flower pot, another looks out on the street from the tree line. Deeper within the grove, a boar hugs the ground as a bear frozen in mid-stride stalks away.

If they could talk, they’d all have tales of their encounter with the 10-year-old marksman who lives next door. Instead, their scarred foam rubber hides tell the story. Tightly grouped arrow wounds dot their midsections, a testimonial to an archer with unerring aim and a talent for the craft.

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Vincent, a fifth-grader at St. Francis Elementary, is also an archery prodigy. He spent the first half of the year competing in archery tournaments around the southeast and won two in the Eagle Trophy class, including the Mississippi Archery Shooters Association State Championship earlier this month.

In seven tournaments, most with fields of between 15 and 25 competitors, Vincent hasn’t finished worse than seventh. It’s a trend he hopes to continue this weekend in one of the tournament circuit’s biggest events, the McKenzie ASA Classic in West Monroe, La.

“He’s very competitive,” said Garrett’s father, Michael Vincent. “He does a good job at most things he does. His first tournament he finished third. That’s a good sign right there.”

Like most young boys, Garrett Vincent enjoys playing baseball and football. Until late last year he hadn’t even thought about archery.

Then, one day, he and his 12-year-old brother Luke went to the yard and started shooting at the foam animal targets in the yard. Garrett showed an uncanny knack for hitting the mark. His gift for judging distance allowed him to aim well and group shots.

“We really don’t hunt. Me and my brother just had a cheap Wal-Mart bow. We started to hit dots and we asked if we could get a good bow,” Garrett said. “At first I said, ‘this is fun,’ so I kept on shooting. Then my dad took me to my first tournament and it was fun.”

That first tournament was a local event in Lucedale, where he placed third. That strong result led to more tournaments around the southeast. As Garrett showed more of an affinity for the sport his father bought him better equipment that allowed the natural talent to shine through even more.

At the same time, Garrett showed another unusual talent for an archer so young — a willingness to practice and understand his mistakes. He has gotten his share of pointers during clinics at the various tournaments and from other young archers, as well as from Michael — who shot on the semi-pro circuit for a few years in the 1990s — but has mostly honed his skill through hours of practice.

“I practice almost every day, then if I got into a bad habit I’d put the bow down for about a week and come back to it,” Garrett said.

Michael Vincent said Garrett’s greatest ability is a natural gift for judging the distance of his shots. In the Eagle Trophy class, a division for 9-10-year-olds, archers shoot at 25-30 targets — either the same type of foam rubber animals that sit in the yard, or paper “dot” targets attached to foam blocks. Archers walk through a course and shoot at the targets from ranges of 10-25 yards. They earn points by hitting one of several scoring rings located on the targets.

Misjudging the distance of a target by even a few inches can cost an archer points, but it’s easy for young and inexperienced competitors to do.

“Basics like form and how to stand, I can teach him, but things like judging yardage you can’t. He’s got that yardage judging gift that a lot of people don’t,” Michael Vincent said.

Garrett said his friends have congratulated him on the trophies he’s won, but a lot of them don’t know about his exploits on the tournament circuit. The foam targets have made him more popular than success, his mother joked.

“All the little kids around the neighborhood think it’s neat. They come over and shoot at the targets,” she said with a laugh.