CHAMPAIGN — Shayna Singh didn’t pick up a bow and arrow until just before starting high school at Champaign Central.
Four years later, she’s the best preps archer in the state.
Singh captured the top overall score — 293 — among males and females at the National Archery in the Schools Program state tournament, which was hosted by Centennial from March 24-25.
“You try not to think too much, but you end up thinking about (winning), and your whole focus just gets distracted,” Singh said.
“I just had to make sure that I had nothing in my mind, that I was completely empty-headed ... I think that’s what goes through everyone’s head at that moment, and that’s a big factor when it comes to shooting really well.”
Her score edged the next highest score of 289 and netted her a slew of prizes, including a new bow, a trophy and a $1,000 scholarship.
Not bad for someone who hadn’t really considered picking up a bow before her high school orientation, when she noticed a table for the Maroons’ archery program among the different clubs and activities that the school offers.
“When I got to the archery booth, they had a bunch of trophies and awards on display,” Singh said.
“The coaches there seemed very amiable, and there were a few players there, and I talked to them because I wanted to see what archery was like ... when I went to the first few practices, I thought this is actually really cool, and it would actually help mentally (for the) future.”
It’s been a positive development for everything else that the senior has been involved with during the four years since.
“It definitely helped me with my academics in school,” Singh said. “I learned patience and concentration through archery, and I was able to apply that same concept for my school and academic work.”
Archery is, after all, largely mental, according to many.
“Archery, all it needs is your commitment and accuracy and a little bit of skills,” Singh’s father, Jayavart, said. “Physically you don’t have to be that strong or anything like that.”
Shayna Singh wasn’t the only Maroons archer to find success that weekend. Mason Daniels ranked fifth among boys and tied for sixth overall at 286. Central placed two teams inside the top six overall among 14 competing squads.
Having her teammates along for the ride — and competing just across town from where she attends school — was a help for Singh.
“Just having moral support there was definitely a strong factor in my success,” Singh said.
“The coaches there were very helpful, too, but when it came to my teammates, I always turned to them, and they always gave me a nod of support, and it just really also helped boost my confidence in myself and my teammates.”
She’s also received plenty of support from family and friends.
“Once the score came out, and she said, you know, she is the top archer among boys and girls in all of Illinois, we just couldn’t believe ourselves,” Jayavart Singh said.
“We were so proud of her. And the next thing I did was to start typing an email and send it out to everyone I knew ... we are very, very, very, very proud of her.”
Archery isn’t as physical of a sport as others; focus and concentration are critical during tournaments.
Shayna Singh was able to lock in when it mattered most.
“If you get at the least a bit distracted, like while you have your bow set in place and your aiming at the spot you need to shoot at, just a little bit of distraction, it will mess you up, and you can lose the winning points, like the points that can place you first,” she said.
“It’s definitely something that a lot of top archers think, especially during the Olympics, because so much is at stake, and they need to do their best, but they can’t get distracted by that fact or else they won’t do their best.”
Singh already got her new bow picked out, too — a red and black bow with “Illinois champion” engraved on it.
She’ll need it for the next phase of her career.
“This sport has become a part of who I am,” she said. “It’s definitely something I want to continue in college.”