The sounds of dribbling basketballs and cheering fans were replaced by thwacks of arrows hitting targets and applause after each scoring round.
On Friday and Saturday, Seymour High School’s Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium — the largest high school gymnasium in the world — hosted a National Archery in the Schools Program state qualifier.
Archers from Seymour, Scottsburg and South Ripley high schools came together in hopes of helping their team qualify for the state tournament, set for March 13 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.
Seymour coach Jill Purkhiser said it was her team’s only shot at qualifying this season, which comes a year after the season ended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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She said it’s not easy to social distance at the state tournament site, but that’s not the case at the national tournament location, Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky. That’s set for May 6, 7 and 8.
"NASP has said they don’t want to have a tournament unless they can do it fully," Purkhiser said. "They’re not going to do a half-horse tournament, so that’s where we’re at right now — can they do a full tournament?"
Seeing the season end the way it did in 2020 hurt, Purkhiser said. The state tournament was called off 48 hours before it was set to start.
"I lost 10 of my top 12 shooters last year that were seniors," she said. "Ending the season the way it did last year, it was hard. I got back in our bow closet and I had not touched anything until September, and when I got back in there, our bows were still packed ready to go to state, and I literally cried because it just brought back everything."
This season, 21 of her 40 archers are seniors.
One of them, Kielar Greer, was the top shooter over the weekend qualifier, scoring 293 — seven points off from a perfect score of 300. Classmate Madelynn Burns was next with 277.
Purkhiser said Greer winning the boys division and being the top overall archer was a first for the Seymour archery program.
"Super excited for him and us," she said.
Team 1 shot 3,267 and placed first out of the four teams. Scottsburg was second with 3,178, Seymour’s Team 2 placed third with 3,021 and South Ripley was fourth with 2,934.
"In the top 10, our boys claimed six of the slots, and our girls claimed five of the slots. Not a bad showing," Purkhiser said.
She estimated Team 1 needed above 3,100 and Team 2 needed to top 3,000 to qualify for state. NASP will announce the advancing teams after all of the qualifiers are completed later this month.
Seymour’s qualifier usually is the last one conducted in the state, but it was moved up this year due to a conflicting basketball game.
Another difference this year was the number of archers and spectators. Purkhiser said there are normally more than 400 archers, but there were only 180 over the weekend. Plus, spectators were limited to those in the same household as the archers.
"Huge difference there," Purkhiser said.
Burns, a four-year archer, said she was a little nervous competing Saturday because of the lower attendance.
"Last year, I won, so I was trying to win, but I think that got in my head a little bit today," she said, smiling.
Her goal was to beat her high score of 281, and she came close. Her 277, though, was second place among the 40 high school girls competing.
She will have an opportunity to increase her score Saturday when the Owls compete in a tournament hosted by North Harrison High School. Then she hopes state is a go and not canceled again this year.
"It was really tough because we were doing our best. I just thought it was a real bad thing that it got cut short because that was our year," Burns said of 2020.
"I’m just trying to do one tournament at a time to see how far we can go," she said of this season. "I think we’re going to be a good team because we’re all together in this because we’ve all had disappointment throughout the year, and we just want to have a good last year, especially since half our team is mostly seniors this year."
Junior Eli Wood was second among the Seymour boys at the qualifier with 273.
His personal best in his three years of archery is 280, and he said he hopes to shoot 285 by the end of the season.
He, too, wants to see the Owls qualify for state and nationals.
"It was a disappointment just because it ended so abruptly. I thought we were going to at least go do nationals," Wood said of the 2020 season. "You can tell we’ve gotten better over the years, even though we’ve lost seniors."
Purkhiser said she appreciates the support of the archers’ families, members of the community and school officials over the weekend.
"We had teachers here that we’ve never had here before watching," she said. "That means a lot to the kids and makes them feel like, ‘OK, this is something that’s going on. They care about this.’"
As far as the participants, Purkhiser said it’s great to see students of all abilities, including some with special needs, get to compete in archery.
"This is a fantastic sport all the way around," she said.
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To view results from the Seymour State Qualifier and Invitational Tournament, visit nasptournaments.org/school.aspx?oid=8084.