The Seymour High School archery team will be making a second trip to Louisville, Kentucky, this year.
At the NASP Eastern Nationals on May 14, the Owls shot a season-best 3,317 and placed 44th out of 215 teams in the high school division.
That qualified them for the NASP Open / Championship set for June 25 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. More than 260 schools – elementary through high school – are expected to participate.
Seymour head coach Jill Purkhiser was happy with her team’s performance at nationals.
“We had broken 3,300 on senior night, but to actually do it at nationals, we had seven personal bests,” she said. “Ideally, you want to have them start out (the season) with their lowest score and end with their highest score.”
After shooting 299 at the state tournament March 12, senior McKenzie Wirtz again led the Owls at nationals, shooting 292.
She was followed by Eli Wood and Hannah Ackeret, both with 281, Jacob Jones with 279, Ashley Paredes 278, Lane Schroer 276, Gideon Wells 275, Timothy Burton 274, Hannah Grantham 272, Kayla Baker and Jessica Hougland, both 270, and Audrey Redlin 269.
Those made up the team score, and 12 others shot at nationals.
Shooting season-best scores were Ackeret, Paredes, Wells, Burton, Grantham, Baker and Trina McDonald (267).
Considering the roller coaster season with archers missing competitions for various reasons, Purkhiser was pleased with the showing at the national stage. She refers to this season’s Owls as “the little team that could.”
“Because when we started this year, we had lost 40 in the past two years to graduation, big-time shooters,” she said. “Yes, we had ones like Eli Wood, Hannah Ackeret and McKenzie Wirtz. I knew I had a small group that was coming back, but honestly, I didn’t know what we would have this year. We had so many newbies. We had so many variables. I had no idea what to expect. ”
Wirtz wound up placing sixth out of 2,055 high school girls competing at Eastern Nationals and was first among Indiana high school girls.
She said she was nervous going in because the COVID-19 pandemic had affected the past two years of nationals, and she hadn’t gone to the in-person competition since her freshman year.
Plus, she said she didn’t have a good week of practice leading up to it.
She, however, shot 48 in the first round and walked herself through it from there to stay focused.
“I wouldn’t have changed it for the world,” she said. “I had so much fun. I really had to walk myself through, like, ‘All right, you’ve got the next one. We’re going to really try to focus on this one. ‘”
Wirtz said she thought she needed to shoot at least 295 to be on the leader board.
“I got on the NASP portal and I was shocked,” she said. “I was like,‘ Oh my gosh! I’m actually going to place. ‘”
She was also excited to see how the rest of her teammates performed.
“There were really good personal bests, really good people that came out from our team specifically,” she said. “One of my best friends, she’s been struggling this year, and she’s got a really, really good score, so I was very, very happy for that.”
Purkhiser said Wirtz was averaging in the 260s before state, and big thanks to her son, assistant coach Drew Purkhiser, working with her, she made a big jump. At state, she was one point away from a perfect score of 300.
“You talk about everything flowing together and it’s just clicking, Drew did a lot of that because he worked with her and worked with her,” Jill said.
According to the National Archery in the Schools Program rankings, Wirtz is tied with Madilynn Rhinevault of Montrose Area High School in Montrose, Pennsylvania, for the highest score among girls in the nation in the 2021-22 season, 299.
“Just to be able to pull that up and see Seymour High School listed there, it’s pretty cool,” Jill said, smiling.
JJ Quehl of Blair Oaks High School in Wardsville, Missouri, is the only person to shoot 300, and looking at the rest of the boys rankings, four have shot 299.
For the Eastern Nationals, only three Indiana teams finished ahead of Seymour. Castle won the high school division with a score of 3,434, Batesville was 24th with 3,354 and Reitz was 43rd with 3,317.
Seymour’s flight time for June 25 has not yet been set.
On Saturday night at SHS, archery awards were handed out for the season.
The Green Arrow Award for top male rookie went to Wells, and the award for the top female rookie went to Sydni Burton.
Timothy Burton was the most improved male archer, and Lauryn Arthur and Keara Riley tied for most improved for the females.
Wood was the top male archer with a top score of 289, and Wirtz was the top female archer with her 299. She also won the Golden Arrow Award for top score of the season.