Shooting with confidence

Kylie Schepers/The Herald
Madalynn Pund, 11, of St. Anthony releases her arrow toward the target at archery practice Tuesday evening at Pine Ridge Elementary School in Kyana.


Madalynn Pund is 15 feet from the target, feet facing perpendicular, standing tall. Her teammates hover a few feet behind, keeping their distance and staying quiet.

Pund pivots her back foot to a steadier stance and locks eyes with the target, as if it’s a deer in the woods. She pulls her right arm back and steadies the bow, letting the silence hang in the air for about five seconds before the slight ‘thud’ of the arrow hitting the soft material.

Not quite a bullseye.

She grabs another arrow, following the same pattern as before, and releases. Bullseye.

For Madalynn and her teammates, archery is about learning how to fix your errors. It’s not a highly physical sport, and it doesn’t involve much cooperation with a team  it’s just you relying on yourself, resetting with each arrow and trying to get 10 points, the highest score per shot.

“If you mess up, you don’t think about it,” Pund said. “You just tell yourself you’re going to get a 10 next time.”

Pund and her teammates are fifth-graders practicing at Pine Ridge Elementary School in Kyana. They're part of a group of Southeast Dubois students heading to the Indiana National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) State Tournament in Indianapolis today.

Indiana NASP is provided to schools through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Law Enforcement. It began nearly 20 years ago and now has more than 600 schools across the state trained to deliver the program to students.

Southeast Dubois, in only its second year with NASP, has 24 elementary school team members, 22 junior high team members and one individual high schooler that qualified for state. They’ll be traveling to the Indianapolis State Fairgrounds to face more than 1,400 competitors.

"Their first year was really just about getting started," Tim Beck, the state coordinator for NASP, said. "It's pretty amazing how far they've come."

In addition to students from Southeast Dubois, two athletes from Northeast Dubois and two from Southridge High School will be competing in the tournament, as well as a few students from surrounding counties.

Usually, about 2,200 kids compete in state each year, two assigned to each target. But with COVID-19 restrictions, the number was reduced so there’s only one athlete per target, with social distancing enforced.

“The fact that it got cut in half and they still made it is pretty impressive,” Coach Brad Beck, Tim's son, said.

Archery has been a part of Brad’s life for as long as he can remember. He’s been shooting since he was 4 years old. And now, he has sons in every archery age division to carry on the family tradition.

When the athletes compete, they’ll shoot three sets of five bows from 10 feet away and then the same from 15 feet away. A bullseye is 10 points, and more points get subtracted the farther the arrow is from the center.

Archery is a sport of equality. It includes students of all athletic abilities, from varsity football players to those who have never done a sport otherwise. Everyone from fourth grade up through high school uses the same standard bows and arrows, which means it’s all about skill.

“You can adjust how much weight it is to pull it back, but you can’t adjust really anything else about it,” Pine Ridge Principal Ryan Haas, who helps with the teams, said. “There’s no tricks. You can’t go out and buy a $300 piece of equipment to make it better than someone else’s.”

Just as each team includes a unique pool of athletes, each student enjoys archery for different reasons.

Fifth-grader Bralyn Messmer said she does it as a calming activity to get away from the stress of school. “All you hear is the sound of hitting the target,” she said.

Her teammate, Jace Wright, said he likes how it’s an individual sport. “You’re on your own,” he said. “You just got yourself to take care of it.”

Most of the athletes have competed in a tournament before but never one this big. At practice Tuesday evening, Brad asked his archers how they were feeling about the upcoming competition.

“I know some of you are going to be nervous this weekend,” he said. “We’ve just got to make sure we’re taking a few seconds to make sure the little things are right. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t shoot yet. Take a deep breath.”

Some of the athletes admitted to being nervous but said it’s mostly good nerves. Some, like Jace, said they aren’t nervous at all, that they’re confident.

“I’m ready to go,” Jace said.

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