RIPLEY - In West Virginia, the word "dynasty" has an alternate spelling: R-I-P-L-E-Y.
Ripley High School's archery team is about as dynastic as one gets. The Vikings have won six of the seven Archery in the Schools tournaments held so far, and finished the 2013 season with another state title and a fifth-place finish in the National Archery in the Schools tournament, the best ever by a team from the Mountain State.
"We have a great bunch of kids," said Tom Kruk, one of the team's coaches, when asked the secret to Ripley's success. "They're not content with just being good. Kids from some teams are happy when all their shots are all in the target's yellow [9-point] ring. Our kids want them all in the 10-ring."
Kruk happily acknowledges that many of the team's archers began shooting long before they ever reach high school - or middle school, for that matter.
"We live in an area where a lot of people are bowhunters," he said. "Some of our kids have been shooting since they were in grade school or before."
Cayla Goodson, the team's top female archer, is a case in point. A four-time state individual champion, she won her first title when she was an eighth-grader at Ripley Middle School. Since moving on to the high-school team, she's won three more championships and hopes to add another next year during her senior season.
"Bowhunting has been in my family for quite a while," she said. "I got started [in archery] pretty early."
Levi Staats, the Vikings' second-ranked male, is a sophomore. He won state titles in his sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade years at Ripley Middle. "I had a bow even before I was in the sixth grade, though," he said.
Nick Rhodes, the Vikings' top-ranked male and 2013 individual state champ as a freshman, also got started early. "I've been shooting just about all my life," he said.
Most Archery in the Schools teams are considered clubs, not official school teams. At Ripley, the archery squad enjoys full varsity-team status.
"We're treated as a sport," said Tess Gump, the team's other coach. "We get a share of the athletic budget, and our kids get varsity letters and letter jackets. And these are kids that ordinarily wouldn't be involved in any other sort of athletic competition."
"At this year's spring sports assembly, the archery team got introduced along with the baseball, softball and golf teams," Kruk added. "And our kids got the loudest ovation of any of them."