Waking up early Tuesday morning, Seymour High School archery team members flowed into the auxiliary gymnasium and found the range set up.
Several teammates and middle school archers had arrived before them and had the net, targets, bows, arrows, lines and quivers all set up.
When the clock hit 6:30 a.m., it was time to practice. From September to June each year, that’s the routine of the high school archers every Tuesday and Thursday.
It may not always be easy, but the time and effort are well spent when the result is qualifying for the National Archery in the Schools Program Indiana State Tournament.
This is the seventh year for archery at SHS, and the Owls have qualified for that tournament every year.
Senior Hannah Ackeret joked she still hasn’t gotten used to waking up early, and senior Hannah Grantham said she even wakes up early on days she doesn’t have practice.
Classmate Eli Wood, however, said it has become part of his schedule and he’s used to it.
“We’re willing to put in the work because if you weren’t here and you weren’t shooting, you weren’t going to get better,” he said.
The coaches have to be there early, too, and head coach Jill Purkhiser said she adds Fridays after school to work with middle-schoolers. Archery is a new offering at Seymour Middle School this school year.
“They can only practice one time a week over there, so we opened up Tuesday practices to get two times,” she said. “It has been such a difference in them. The ones that are coming on Tuesday, holy cow, you can just see a huge difference in their shooting.”
The high-schoolers are set to shoot at 9:35 a.m. Saturday at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis. The Owls will have 24 competitors.
Typically, Seymour would have had at least three tournaments in before state, including the big qualifier the Owls host. They, however, only had one tournament, and their qualifier was postponed due to the weather, so the archers had to do qualifying during a practice in early February.
Purkhiser’s goal for the team score is 3,200.
“The last time we shot down at North Harrison, we shot a 3,193, so we’re close,” she said, smiling. “We’re seven points away from that 3,200. They are capable of it. They are right there. I want to see them break 3,200 at state. That’s what I want to see them do.”
She has several new archers and doesn’t want nerves to get the best of them in their first state tournament.
“I usually want them to shoot their average, so I have all of that information and give them that,” she said of her archers. “I don’t expect personal bests, I don’t expect personal lows, but if they shoot their average, we’ll be all right. Sometimes, that can be a 20-point swing one way or the other, but I try to tell them, ‘So you don’t shoot 290s every time. At least shoot your average of 270.’ That takes a little of the stress off, too.”
Ackeret and Wood both said they are excited to compete at state for the third time. They weren’t able to compete in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For Grantham, this will be her second time at state.
“I’m just happy,” Grantham said, smiling.
“Even though we lost a lot of good people last year, I think we can still get up there if everyone just keeps putting in the work,” Ackeret said of the team reaching its score goal. “I want to see the younger people shoot a little higher because our top people are seniors and juniors. There are a couple freshmen, maybe a sophomore. I’m confident we can get high 3,200s if everyone puts in the effort.”
Last year at state, the Owls shot 3,335 and placed fifth. Then they shot a season-best 3,347 at the virtual national competition for 35th place and scored 3,310 at the Open Championship in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to place 10th out of 27 teams in the high school division.
“I’d like to see us in the top 20 this year,” Purkhiser said of state. “The higher the number that we shoot, the better the tier that we’ll get (at the national tournament) and then you pick your flights. It’s a tier system for picking your flights, and once the flights are filled, that’s it. There are no more openings, so you want to have a higher number so you can get a flight.”
Seymour also has been in the national tournament each year, and Purkhiser said it would be nice to make it this year because it’s NASP’s 20th anniversary. Overall, she has coached archery for 14 of those years, having spent the first seven in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Eastern National Tournament is May 12 to 14 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, and the Open Championship is June 23 to 25 at the same location.
Seymour’s tournament that was postponed has been rescheduled for April 9, and Purkhiser said she expects nearly 400 archers to compete in the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium that day.
At a glance
The Seymour High School archery team will compete in the National Archery in the Schools Program Indiana State Tournament at 9:35 a.m. Saturday at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, 1202 E. 38th St., Indianapolis.
The archers are Hannah Ackeret, Kayla Baker, Jaden Bevers, Mason Burns, Sydni Burton, Timothy Burton, Ava Cooley, Rikki Dial, Kinsley Folsom, Hannah Grantham, Megan Hohnstreiter, Lucy Horton, Jessica Hougland, Jacob Jones, Seth Lane, Trina McDonald, Sotaro Miyagawa, Dorismar Ortiz, Ashley Paredes, Audrey Redlin, Matthew Schluckbier, Lane Schroer, McKenzie Wirtz and Eli Wood.