Twice as nice: Seymour archery advances two teams to national competition

While the Seymour High School archery team has competed at the national level in the past, this year’s tournament will prove double the fun.

SHS will send two teams to the 2019 National Archery in the Schools Program’s Eastern Nationals in May after strong showings at the state tournament Saturday in Indianapolis.

Since the program started in 2016, the Owls have just sent a single squad to nationals each spring.

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“We’ve never had two teams go to nationals,” coach Jill Purkhiser said. “We came close last year, but this year, we’re taking 48 archers to nationals. I’m pumped. I’m so excited for these kids. These kids rocked on Saturday. We’ve been practicing hard. The ones that are in this are focused and are working hard. They’re a great group of kids that are putting a lot of effort in. It has paid off for them.”

At the Indiana NASP State Tournament at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, the Owls had one team finish sixth overall of 36 total high school teams with a score of 3,330, while the second team shot 3,187 for 26th.

Teams are required to shoot above 3,100 at state to make it to nationals. In 2018, the Owls’ second team missed the cut by 15 points.

Owls senior Hunter Johns said it was a relief to get both teams through this year.

“State was rather interesting,” he said. “We all got to shoot together, both teams, for the first time. It was a relief. Normally, one team shoots and the other has to wait for at least an hour. We wound up in sixth place, which is far and away the best we’ve ever shot. We’ve made gradual improvement every single year.”

Seymour has jumped up the leaderboard each year at state. After finishing 26th in Year 1, the Owls placed 13th in 2017 and 9th in 2018.

Castle won state this year by scoring 3,441, Evansville Reitz finished runner-up at 3,407 and Jennings County took third at 3,386. Boonville (3,380) and Tecumseh (3,340) placed fourth and fifth.

Last year, Castle won state, nationals and worlds.

Purkhiser said her archers came prepared for state.

“They weren’t nearly as scared. We have shot at a lot more tournaments this year, and I think that has made a huge difference,” she said. “This year, we had the funds to do that between our home tournament and the sponsors. We’ve had tremendous support, and I think that has made a difference. The kids’ attitudes are good. We’re a tighter group this year than we’ve ever been. They are constantly working to help each other.”

Freshman McKenzie Wirtz shot a personal-best 284 to lead SHS. Her score was the second best of 108 freshman girls and 12th of 380 for total high school girls.

“It was probably the most fun tournament I have ever been to,” Wirtz said. “The environment was super-relaxing. I wasn’t stressed at all. It made it a really fun experience.”

Senior Ashlie Smith also had a strong outing for the Owls, shooting a personal-best 282 to place 19th for high school girls.

“We ended up walking out of there feeling pretty confident,” Smith said. “Walking into nationals, we will all be able to work together and support each other. I think we will all be pretty stoked once we get there.”

Senior Thomas Hyland totaled 280 to place 56th of 410 high school boys and 13th of 87 senior boys. Senior JaeCarr Greer and junior Logan Owens both shot 278s for 76th and 77th of all of the high school boys.

Purkhiser said a different archer has led the team each tournament this season.

Senior Scott Shoenthal said it means a lot to be going back to nationals.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking because I know it’s my last year doing (nationals),” Shoenthal said. “If it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t have come out of my shell. I used to be really, really shy. It’s really cool, though, because if I wanted to, I could come back next year and be a coach.”

Six senior Owls also received IN NASP Scholarships at state. Smith, Johns, Auston Everman, Jasmine Robbins, Abby Wiggam and Peyten Earnest were all awarded one-time $500 scholarships for their work on the range and in the classroom.

The NASP Eastern Nationals will be May 9 through 11 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. Seymour will not know which days and times it will shoot until registration opens in April.

More than 18,000 archers competed last year at the event.