Big scoring and roster depth have put the Tigers on top of the podium twice this month while posting the best score in the nation.
Triton Central Elementary flexed their bows on March 12 to win the state championships in the bullseye and 3D competitions at the Indiana NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program) State Tournament with a new school record of 3,102 points.
The Tigers started the day on target with focused archers, pinpoint accuracy and some really big scores.
“Our goal was to improve in every practice and every competition this season,” said coach Brian Smith.
Coach Christine Graham added: “Pace was also very important this year. We didn’t want to peak too soon. We wanted to look our best in the state.
The Tigers did just that. After a very strong practice round, TCES had 10 archers who scored 45 or more points (out of 50) in the first scoring round.
In the second round, things only got better. Scores went from 45 to 48, 49 and even 50. Fifth-year archer Mason Abplanalp led the way as the Tigers began to show their skill, confidence and depth to work in what has become a school record and the state’s best score for the 21-22 season.
“I saw that Mason Abplanalp on target 1 was pretty excited. He had never shot a perfect score in a tournament. His excitement was all we needed to know he had done it!” said Graham .
In the next lap, Abplanalp did it again.
“Back-to-back perfect 50s never happened for us at TCES. To do it at the state was amazing! said enthusiastic coach Smith.
In NASP bullseye, teams of up to 24 archers shoot for a team score of the top 12 archers. Of these 12, four must be boys, four must be girls, and then the next four highest scores complete the team’s score.
“Our depth in both boys and girls really paid off today. We have so many kids scoring in the 230s, 240s and 250s. When we add some scoring in the 260s and 270s, the things are going really well,” Smith said.
This depth was very evident when the final results were published in the leaderboard. The Tigers not only finished with a state championship, but also placed their second team in the top 10 of 28 qualifying teams.
Later in the day, TCES returned for the final competitive round of the 3D tournament (animal decoy targets). In the 3D division, archers shoot at 6 different animal targets at different distances. Instead of the top 12 scores, as in the bubble, team scores are made up of the top six scores with a minimum of two boys and two girls in the top six.
The Tigers spent most of the season neck and neck with Northern Indiana powerhouse Churubusco Elementary; the Tigers knew it would take work if they wanted to finish in the top 3. After an early season loss to Churubusco 3D, the Tigers realized that with a little work they could compete with the best.
“It was our first year competing in the 3D division at the elementary level. It’s tough and the practice time is really focused on the bullseye division. We put together a small 3D team in December just to try it out and it worked out well. At that point, we realized it wasn’t just something the kids loved to do, but something we could do very well,” Graham said.
Just before the start of the 3D competition, the Tigers received news of their score in the bullseye.
“We saw our final score in the bullseye about an hour or two before moving to the 3D range,” Smith said. “We were pumped! Not only were we above 3000, an important benchmark for elementary teams, but we were above 3100! I think our archers used this news and excitement to stay focused on the 3D tournament. We figured that 3100 would probably be enough to win the mile. We had no pressure on the 3D range. We had already hit our targets. 3D was just supposed to be about having fun and enjoying our time at the state tournament.
That relaxed yet confident attitude helped the young Tigers crush their previous 3D score and win their second state championship of the day. Not only did the TCES score of 1554 win the state 3D tournament, but it is also the current best score in the United States for the 21-22 season.
Smith said: “It’s hard to know exactly how a team behaves in a 3D tournament. Coaches cannot step down and see scorecards or targets after arrows have been shot. We are about 20 meters away and you really can’t see the pointing rings on the animals from that distance. However, we were hitting targets in high score areas and it looked pretty good from afar.
In addition to the team 3D title, 5th year archer Mason Abplanalp also won the individual title.
Mason scored a 271 to edge out St. Joseph Catholic Archer Sterling Straus who scored a 270.
“Mason really had an amazing day. He placed 2nd in the bullseye with a 272 and then finished the day with a 271 and a state championship performance on the 3D range; very good day for a 5th grader year,” Smith said.
The two state championships are the first state victories for TCES. In its 8th year of operation, the Tigers have seen their program grow from 14 4th graders in 2014 to nearly 175 students in grades 4-12 participating during their club season.
“We start with an 8-week club season and then select a competitive team to compete for the rest of the season,” said Triton Central Middle School coach Jenna Meyer. “The club season allows us to train new archers and improve experienced archers. We like to give everyone a chance to learn and grow.
This philosophy has not only allowed the archery club to become one of the biggest in the region, but also one of the best. With many 5th graders moving on to the middle school division, there is sure to be more success in the future.
A look at the state tournament standings shows that 16 archers from Triton Central place in the top ten of their respective divisions. Indiana NASP rewards the top 5 archers with individual awards after the tournament ends.
TCHS archer Sophia Higdon won 4th place in 3D in the high school division while Aidan Morris won 5th place in men’s for TCMS.
In the elementary division, the Tigers won several individual awards. In the 3D lineup, Mason Abplanalp was the individual state champion on the men’s side while Sam Woods took 5th place. Mallory Diehl’s arrows earned her a 4th place in 3D for girls. Back in the bullseye, Abplanalp also claimed a 2nd place, narrowly missing out on a double state championship by 3 points. Sam Kegley was only one point behind Abplanalp. The tiebreaker rules put Sam in 5th place.
This was by far the most successful state tournament in program history for Triton Central. The Tigers learned Tuesday that they have qualified for the NASP National Tournament, which takes place in Louisville, KY, in early May.
“With our success at State, we are excited to continue to the national tournament. Our teams have all worked hard to improve,” Graham said. “We have several weeks to prepare, but for now we will enjoy and celebrate being state champions. Our archers deserve it. Coach Smith and I are very proud of what they have done.