NJ college archery star sets national record

MAYS LANDING, New Jersey (WPVI) -- "I originally picked up a bow when I was about 4 years old. My father introduced me to the sport. From there on, I was pretty much hooked," said Matthew Byrnes. "You're shooting against yourself, really focusing on being an individual, trying to achieve that perfect shot."

Byrnes, 21, is now a sophomore at Atlantic Cape Community College. An institution with nine national archery team championships in its history, the school was the perfect place to develop his skills.

"Last year, competing-wise, I was only one on the team. Coronavirus really impacted the team. Not many people came back," he said. "Now, we have just under 20. So, having all those people to be there to support you no matter what, it's always really good motivation."

Byrnes needed some extra motivation when he traveled to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, for the Eastern Regional Collegiate Championships.

"Practice day did not go as planned. I was not shooting where I could have been," he said. "I had to kind of change the thought process."

Atlantic Cape Archery Coach Chad Affrunti was able to help Byrnes get into a rhythm. In the 50m round, Byrnes scored 695 out of 720 possible points. Unbeknownst to him at the time, he had just broken a national record. It took several weeks for the news to reach his ears.

"It was pretty cool to know that I've made a lot of strides, shooting since I was four, I finally had that stamp of achievement," he said.

Coach Affrunti was proud of Byrnes for his performance, but was jokingly disappointed with his numerical score.

"I've seen him break 700 and I still think that's a goal he should have," he said. "He's one of the best shooters in the country and I've seen him in practice shoot a national record every day he walks in the door."

Affrunti himself was an All-American archer at Atlantic Cape during 1998, 1999, and 2000. Before him was his father, Bruce Affrunti, who shared the same title and acted as the assistant coach.

"I've been involved with this program for 25 of the 40 years it's been in existence," said Chad Affrunti. "It's one of my privileges to continue teaching kids in southern New Jersey about archery."

In the future, Matthew Byrnes hopes to become a mechanical engineer and develop technology in the archery industry. He has his sights set on playing in the professional league and taking his skills nationwide. But despite his greatest ambitions, he emphasizes the importance of being a leader to his fellow teammates.

"I don't want the record to be what people know me for," he said. "I like to just help people when I can and then they reciprocate it to others."

To learn more about Atlantic Cape's archery program, visit their website.

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