Archer Rachel Luoma finds what she's looking for in college

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After learning the sport as a youth, Rachel Luoma stopped competing in archery in high school. But when she began applying to colleges a few years ago, she did so with an ulterior motive.

Rachel Luoma shoots a traditional, or recurve, bow. She has no stabilizers, no sights. In Olympic-style recurve, archers have those two advantages.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Rachel Luoma shoots a traditional, or recurve, bow. She has no stabilizers, no sights. In Olympic-style recurve, archers have those two advantages.

Georgia Southern appealed to her for its pre-vet program. And it had an added bonus: the school featured an archery club.

“When I got on campus,” she said, “I immediately found out about them, started going to meetings and joined up.”

She’s done much more since then. Luoma’s added a national title, along with All-Academic (she has a 4.0 GPA in her biology major) and All-American honors in just two years in Statesboro, Ga. And if that’s not enough, she’s president of the Southern Eagles Archery organization.

Luoma became an archer in fifth grade when she joined the 4-H club. She continued with the sport through eighth grade, but 80-minute round trips to and from practice became too much and she stopped competing. Luoma stayed active in the sport, though; the Augusta Jewish Community Center tapped her as its archery instructor during her sophomore year of high school. She taught year-round for three years and practiced on her own after sessions.

When she started at Georgia Southern, Southern Eagles Archery was a small club that featured two teams, competitive and recreational. The competitive archers – the group doubled in size from the previous year to 12 members – have their own equipment and go to meets during the season. Luoma and her fellow competitors teach about 30 recreational archers on Sundays throughout the year.

Luoma shoots a traditional, or recurve, bow. She has no stabilizers, no sights. In Olympic-style recurve, archers have those two advantages.

“With bare bow, it’s all mental where you’re aiming,” she said. “In our opinion, it’s the hardest category.”

In her first year, she won the U.S. Collegiate Association National Outdoor Tournament national championship in basic bow (also known as bare bow) in Utah. Earlier this year, she placed third in the U.S. Collegiate Archery Association National Indoor Archery Championship. Six weeks ago, Southern Eagles Archery, which took seven archers, brought home several awards from the U.S. Intercollegiate Archery Championships in California.

Ashley Hayden, who won Best New Archer, and Daniel Allen won first place in basic bow in their respective divisions, while Luoma placed fourth. Allen and Hayden won first in basic bow mixed team. Also, Allen and Luoma earned All-American and All-Academic honors.

“We’re generally one of the smallest teams out there,” Luoma said. “We’re not a scholarship team. We’re not a varsity team. We’re a club sport, we’re student-led.”

Luoma recently became certified as a Level 3 NTS coach by USA Archery, which allows her to act as the club’s coach for the upcoming season.

She is hoping to still be a part of Southern Eagles Archery when the school officially unveils its $7 million, state-of-the-art Shooting Sports Education Center. The facility was expected to be completed when she arrived in 2012, she said. Now the completion date is scheduled for spring 2015 – just before she graduates.

Luoma, who entered Georgia Southern with several college credits, will obtain her diploma in three years. She soon plans to apply to several veterinary schools in the South. If accepted, she said she’ll find an archery club either on campus or nearby.

“I was kind of upset I got out of it in high school, because it was something I really enjoyed doing,” she said. “Now that I’ve gotten back into it in college, I don’t want to give it up again.

“Archery’s a sport you can do for life.”

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