To many of the high school archers who competed Saturday, archery is about more than just the final score.
“One of the best things about archery is that you get to spend time with your friends and get to meet new people,” Seymour senior John Barrett said.
Barrett was among the 24 archers and three alternates from Seymour who attended Saturday’s National Archery in the Schools Program’s World Tournament at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville.
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“We’ve started friendships, kids that would have never talked to each other in the halls at school are best friends now, and it’s all because we’re together,” said Jill Purkhiser, head coach of the Seymour High School team.
The athletes competing use the Mathews Genesis Bow, a compound bow that requires a maximum of 20 pounds of force to draw the bow.
“This bow makes it so anybody can compete, and more than that, they all compete on the same level with the same scoring and goals. How many sports can say that?” Purkhiser said. “We have kids that have physical disabilities that will never be able to compete in other sports, but they are a part of the team here.”
Assistant coach Drew Purkhiser, Jill’s son, said that is one of the things he admires about the NASP sports competitions. He likes the camaraderie and the mental rigor of the sport.
“Archery is definitely a mental sport. It requires a lot of focus, but it also helps develop focus,” Drew said. “We have teachers comment that kids who have attention and focus issues that joined the team begin to develop the ability to stay tuned into one thing.”
Drew said that is because of the minute detail-oriented aspects of the sport. The smallest changes in movements, such as being even a few centimeters off in release position or releasing too quickly or too slowly, all have a compounded effect on the results and the location of the arrow’s final point.
“Aim small, miss small,” Barrett said, citing an old shooting adage meaning focus on a smaller location meant that even if it missed, it would only miss by a small amount.
“I think I did good this time because I remembered to focus and take my time,” Seymour junior Abby Wiggam said.
Competition for the students involved eight rounds — four at 10 meters with one unscored practice round and another set of four rounds at 15 meters.
During each round, students took turns firing a total of five arrows at a target.
Scoring starts at 10 points for the center ring of the target and decreases one point for each subsequent ring moving outward, meaning a perfect overall score would be 300. Purkhiser said that has never been shot at an official tournament.
The archers are paired with an opposing team to provide pressure and a challenge.
“It’s always great to get matched with a rival school, and you’re just going back and forth point for point,” Barrett said.
“I like that we get to shoot with all kinds of people, but it was nice to get to shoot with Jennings County. They’re fun and very competitive,” Wiggam said.
That competitive rivalry has been one that has carried on throughout the season in local tournaments and meets.
“I think I did pretty good in no small part because my partner for the shoot was very encouraging,” said Levi Croquart, a sophomore at Seymour.
Jennings County archers also sent a team of 24 to the world tournament. The two teams squared off at a level they had never faced each other before.
Bruce Rennemeier, head coach of Jennings County, said he felt the same as Jill Purkhiser.
“We did very well this time, better than we have ever done. Everyone improved,” he said. “Archery is for kids that need something to do to motivate them to stay in school. It keeps their grades up and shows that they have a place they belong.”
Jennings County senior Justin Gasper said he shot a personal-best 293 at the world tournament.
“I thought I was doing well, but I had to keep control of what was going on in my head,” he said.
In the end, Seymour’s final score placed them at 35 out of 88 high schools, while Jennings County placed 10th.
But in the end, archery meant more to those involved than just that.
“We’ve gotten better every time we shoot,” Jill Purkhiser said. “In three years, we’ve improved so much.”
For many of the shooters, the stability and focus on discipline and stillness are what make the difference.
“In the end, I didn’t know what my score was going to be, but I know it’s just as much about family as it is abut shooting,” Croquart said. “It’s about the connections.”