Hayden Elementary wins national archery title, Seymour High School sends pair of teams to tourney

A small local elementary school recently took home a national sports win without many residents even realizing it.

On May 11, Hayden Elementary School was one of two local schools, the other being Seymour High School, that traveled down to the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville to compete in the National Archery in the Schools Program’s National Tournament.

Hayden joined nine other schools in January 2005 in the creation of archery teams and/or clubs throughout southern Indiana.

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“They started training the P.E. teachers and coaches in the county to run the archery teams. We went to our first state tournament in 2007, and we’ve done the state tournament every year,” Hayden coach Jason Gambrel said.

Over the next 12 years, the Hayden Elementary Sharpshooters would make numerous returns to the national stage, climbing the ranks to achieve 10th place, fourth, third and second place five times.

During the 2019 tournament, the Sharpshooters took home the grand prize.

At the 2019 NASP Eastern Nationals, the team scored a 3,229, capping its record score with the first win at the NASP Eastern Nationals in the fourth- and fifth-grade division.

Two of their student scored in the top positions overall.

Brooke Nolan shot a 290, earning her third place in the nation for overall female archers. Emma Maxie also had similar results, placing second in the nation in the fourth-grade female division and 15th in the overall female position.

“We had some good scores — 3,051 (at the Seymour Invitational Tournament and state qualifier), increasing to 3,135 (at the 2019 Indiana NASP State Tournament), but then we plateaued a little at 3,157 (during the 2019 Jennings County Invitational Bullseye),” Gambrel said. “We went on break, and I think that break was what we needed.”

Competing at the same tournament in a different division was Seymour High School’s archery team. The team has had previous success at the tournament, scoring high enough to advance to the next level of the competition.

The Owls also had a first at the tournament.

“This is a first for us having two teams,” assistant coach Drew Purkhiser said. “It’s a little more hectic than previous years, but we brought enough arrows for everyone.”

The team didn’t gain the same success as last year, failing to make it into what is now called the NASP Championships, but scoring high wasn’t all there is to the archers and their coaches.

“We didn’t shoot up to our potential this time, but we want more than that,” assistant coach John Purkhiser said. “We see changes from the start of the year in our students as people. Some start and they don’t have the confidence to look you in the eyes or they feel like they don’t belong, and they end the year with confidence, a change in attitude and they see the others who they didn’t even know as a family.”

The pressure of the event was immense to many of the participants.

“I feel like I have trouble overthinking things,” senior JaeCarr Greer said. “I had to stop thinking and just feel it, start getting more into the center.”

Freshman McKenzie Wirtz had a similar problem of putting too much pressure on herself.

Another senior said focus was pretty easy for her to achieve.

“I managed to focus pretty well,” senior Ashlie Smith said. “Coach said if we get a 290, we could get a pound of bacon. I got a 287. I think that’s close enough, but it was something to focus on.”

Camaraderie is another thing that both levels share.

“No matter what happens, we’re here for each other,” Greer said.

Gambrel said the camaraderie extends not only to his own team but others, as well.

“You see others on other teams or other coaches and you encourage each other, try to raise each other up,” he said.

The Hayden Elementary Sharpshooters will be competing again at the 2019 NASP Championship from July 25 to 27.

Seymour High School’s season is over but will have training events soon.