SHS archery team competing in national tournament Saturday

At the Indiana National Archery in the Schools Program State Bullseye Tournament a couple of months ago, Seymour placed seventh out of 28 high schools.

The Owls’ score of 3,315 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis was the best of the season.

Head coach Jill Purkhiser and her assistants hope that momentum helps the Owls soar even higher during the NASP Eastern Nationals on Saturday at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Since Seymour won’t be going to the Open Championship this year, the national tournament will be the final one of the season.

“State, they stepped up. They really did,” Purkhiser said. “We shot the highest that we’ve shot all year, and that’s what you want to see. You want to see your team peak in the tournaments. Some of them actually surprised themselves what they shot. They surprised themselves that ‘Hey, I can do this.’”

Seymour had several freshmen compete at state, and they now will be shooting at the national tournament for the first time.

“We’ve got a lot of freshmen that have come in that shot at the middle school last year that they didn’t get to go to state last year at the middle school, so this was their first time to go to a big tournament,” Purkhiser said. “They stepped up and they held it together, and a lot of them are going to nationals, so it has been fun to see them grow.”

Senior Jacob Jones was the top male archer for Seymour at state, shooting 283, and he was followed by freshman Brian Westmoreland with 281. Freshmen Ashley Collins (278) and Alejandro Perez (276) also were in the top 10 for the Owls.

Jones admitted he could have done better.

“It didn’t go too well for me. I didn’t really do that good,” he said. “I definitely could do better. It just was an off day.”

Westmoreland, however, said he shot his second-highest score, and it was good having his family there watching him compete at the big stage. Collins said since it was a new experience for her, too, it was good to have her friends with her.

Purkhiser said it was great to see the young archers contribute and shine. This is only the second year for Seymour to have a middle school program to serve as a feeder program.

“It’s nice to have a farm team,” she said, smiling. “This is my first year to have a farm team.”

Since state, she said the focus has been on tweaking the little things, such as release and stance.

“What do we need to just make those adjustments to make it better?” Purkhiser said. “It’s basically coming in and practicing, and since we only have one practice a week right now due to the construction in the gym, getting practice is key right now. I’ve seen a difference in the team with only one practice, but I’m hoping that nationals won’t show that because they seem to rise to the occasion.”

Westmoreland said his goal at nationals is to reach 290, which is 10 off of a perfect score, and Collins said she’s just looking forward to the experience at an even bigger stage.

Jones said he feels pretty good going into nationals. This will be his third time competing, as the COVID-19 pandemic his freshman year forced the cancellation of all of the big tournaments and they were virtual his sophomore year.

“State is nothing like nationals. Nationals is huge,” he said. “The shooting range at state helps you a lot. It gets you in that big environment. It gets you in the big open. There are lines of hundreds of targets in a row. That definitely helps, but nationals, you’re not herded like you are at state. This is just another level.”

Senior Malaine Lampkin is in her first year of archery and didn’t get to compete at state, but she will be going to nationals.

“Everybody has been telling me things. They are like, ‘Oh my gosh! It’s so big. You don’t really understand how big it is until you go and you just see the wall full of targets,’” she said. “Just trying to imagine it, it’s pretty hard to place, but I know when I go there, it’s going to be an other-wordly experience.”

That excites her.

“I think it’s just a really cool thing because I’ve never really been super involved in sports or any sort of monumental group, so just getting to have this in my senior year, just getting that big of an experience and feeling that accomplished for making the nationals team, that’s just going to be a really good thing for me,” Lampkin said.

Purkhiser said the Owls are shooting at 9:45 a.m. Saturday in the North Wing. There will be 480 archers shooting in that wing and 18,000 overall.

This is the eighth year for archery at SHS, and the Owls have qualified for the state and national tournaments each year.

“We haven’t missed one yet,” Purkhiser said, smiling. “I love nationals. That is the big one because even the Open only has a few thousand compared to the nationals. It’s not anywhere close to what the nationals is.”

The Open Championship is in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this year, but it’s a couple of weeks earlier and is close to two big events involving SHS students. Several of the archers will be going with the SHS band to Walt Disney World, and then the seniors have graduation right after that.

“It just happens this year, it all falls together and it’s all so tight,” Purkhiser said. “Some of them are really upset that we’re not going because they were looking forward to going back, and I only had eight that signed up that could go. You have to have 12 to have an official team.”