Striving to be the best, and building a program to compete at the level that the best compete at, takes a special set of coaches and student-athletes who are willing to get it done.
And over the past four years, Jesse Peters and the Lexington (Ky.) Lafayette High School archery program has certainly gotten it done on both a state, as well as a national, level.
On Feb. 14, Peters, who led Lafayette to a state runner-up finish in the KHSAA Archery State Championship back in 2017, and two additional finishes inside the state’s top 10 in the state realm over the past four years, was named as the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Kentucky State Coach of the Year for the 2017 calendar year in the sport.
For the Wheelersburg native, the achievement of such a great honor is certainly a blessing, especially considering that Peters officially put himself as one of the best coaches in the KHSAA ranks, regardless of sport.
“I’m very blessed and honored,” Peters said. “I wouldn’t have received the award without having the dedication of our amazing student-athletes. I also have to give a big thanks to my assistant coach, Eric William Hauck, who joined the team a few years ago.”
Peters, who has been the head coach of the Lafayette archery unit since the sport’s official adoption into the Kentucky High School Athletic Association back in the 2012-13 academic year, has transformed the Generals into one of the premier programs not only across the state, but the country.
In fact, Lafayette, who has qualified for the KHSAA Archery State Championship in four out of the last five seasons under Peters’ direction — an impressive feat in its own right considering that all sports in Kentucky, with the exception of cross country, football, and track and field, are operated under a one-class system — has also accumulated three finishes inside the top dozen finishing positions at the state realm over the past four years.
“It’s very humbling,” Peters said. “It’s exciting to see that the hard work that these archers have put in over the last four years is starting to pay off. It’s great to be recognized in not only the state of Kentucky, but also in the country.”
In 2017, however, Peters’ group took things to a completely different stratosphere.
After repeating its second place finish in the Seventh Region Tournament in order to qualify for the state tournament — only the top two from all 11 regions are able to participate — Lafayette proceeded to blow the vast majority of its competition out of the water as the Generals put together an astounding score of 3,440 points. Only Madison Central — who edged Lafayette for the state title by an ever so slight two points (3,442) — stood between the Generals and state archery lore.
However, that didn’t take anything away from the consistency that the Generals showed during their historic run.
Of the 24 individuals who participated with the Lafayette archery unit at the state tournament, all 24 shot at least a 260 or above out of a perfect 300 score, while only two of those same 24 shot before a 270. Four of the 24 individuals — Cole Murphy, Ryan Moore, Chris Weitlauf, and Korbin Jackson — all shot an astounding 290 or better out of a possible 300, with the quartet accumulating marks of 296, 293, and 291 each respectively, with the former of the four placing first among all freshmen at the state realm. And if that weren’t enough, the consistency on the range also showed up in the classroom, with 14 of the 24 individuals earning KHSAA Academic Archer awards from the state.
“The seniors that graduated (in 2017) set the standard the last few seasons of what it takes to be a nationally recognized program, and it has trickled down to the rest of the team as well as the new students that join the program,” Peters said. “It’s been great to be a part of all of the success. It’s unbelievable to have that many shooters in the 290s. It demonstrates how much hard work that the kids have put in over the last few years to be able to shoot at that level.”
After finishing off the year with outstanding showings at The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Kentucky Three-Dimensional Tournament (first), the NASP National Tournament (third), and the NASP World Tournament (fourth) to end the 2016-17 school year, much of the top-line talent, including Moore, Weitlauf, and Jackson, departed due to graduation.
However, with the program firmly established at the state and national level, Peters has Lafayette in a reloading state instead of a rebuilding mode. And with talented sophomores such as Murphy, David Graf, and Kane Jackson leading the charge, it’s clear that competing for another state championship, much less qualifying for it, are goals that the Generals have set from Day One.
“The season is going well,” Peters said. “We have a number of freshmen and sophomores starting to shoot big scores so we are working more on the mental side of shooting, then the form, and we are entering the team in tournaments every weekend so that they are comfortable when it’s time for the big stage.”
But those are the expectations that Peters — as long as he is in charge — doesn’t plan to let go of anytime soon.
“We always set the bar high, even with a young group,” Peters said. “All year we have told them to believe in the process and we will be ready when the big tournaments come. Over the last few weeks, we have shot some great scores, and I can see the excitement within the group as they are starting to believe that they can win (the Seventh Region Tournament) and compete for the (KHSAA Archery State Championship). We would absolutely love nothing more than to have another shot at the state title.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT