Straight shot to nationals

Archery team finishes season at top scholastic competition


Ellen Fox

FROM THE BEGINNING: Freshman Milo Conner (shown here) and freshman Sophie Leung-Lieu are the only two archers in Coach DeLine’s program to competitively shoot in teams from three schools. In 2017, they shot at Highland Park; from 2018-2020. at Lamar; and now, they are shooting as part of the McCallum team. “It’s a great community with lots of support from our coach,” Conner said, adding that he plans to continue archery during his three remaining years of high school. Reporting by Leung-Lieu.

Marley Angle, staff reporter

The McCallum archery team made history on May 1 when it joined the Lamar and Highland Park archery teams in competing in the National Archery in the Schools Program national tournament. It was the first team appearance at nationals for the McCallum team in its fourth year of existence.

Prior to the state tournament on March 23, McCallum ranked 25th of 40 high school teams in Texas, which was just enough to qualify for state. At state, however, the team gained 13 spots in the state rankings, enough to qualify for nationals. According to head coach Jim DeLine, the new archers were a big part of the team’s success.

“The team was supported by returning archers such as Sophie [Leung-Lieu], Garrett [Michulka] and Mariana [Torres-DeLine],” DeLine said. “They didn’t shoot personal bests, but they shot really rock solid where they needed to be. The team was bolstered by a lot of new archers that … had a great day; it was really kind of cool.”

DeLine said the development of his less experienced archers was gratifying because of the fragmented nature of the archery season. Earlier in the season the team practiced outdoors at Central Texas Archery to reduce the COVID risk.

“It was really cool because we’ve been practicing outside while all those other schools have been practicing inside, so we missed practices because of the snowpocalypse, we missed practices because of rain, but yet they kept coming and kept doing it,” Coach DeLine said.

Nationals, which was sponsored locally by Ski Shores Cafe, was a virtual competition. Every school across the country competed by shooting in their own gym and submitting their scores electronically. The three McCallum cluster teams gathered its 85 archers and divided them into four flights to maintain social distance inside the Lamar gym.

To compete, each archer shoots from 10 meters and then again from 15 meters. Co-captain Eli Frank further explained the rules.

“So what we’ll do is we’ll have a practice round at 10 meters, then we’ll shoot three rounds, then the same thing for the 15 meters,” Frank said. “We shoot five arrows a round, so 40 arrows total. Shooting from 15 meters tends to be more difficult for most archers because it’s a longer distance.”

Leung-Lieu agrees that the longer distance presents a great challenge.

I’ve never been on a team for a sport ever so this team is like my child.

— senior co-captain Marian Torres-DeLine

“This year at state, I did really well at 10 meters, and I didn’t do as well at 15,” she said. “A lot of archers really struggle at 15 meters, but I know that Coach and a lot of us work really hard to get better at shooting from that distance. In fifth grade, we actually beat this team by one point at nationals because of the 15 meters. All of the work we put into improving pays off.”

The distance varies but not as much as the ages of the archers shooting. Torres-DeLine, senior and co-captain of the Mac archery team, explained that shooting with a variety of age and experience levels makes the experience feel more like an individual event.

“When you’re competing, you’re competing next to elementary kids, and you’re competing next to middle schoolers,” she said. “At the end of the day, what makes you good is just your skill.”

As a veteran archer, Michulka has been on both ends of the age spectrum. He started archery at Lamar in seventh grade and continued into high school. In ninth grade, he was on the team with Torres-DeLine and just four other people. Since then, the team has grown, thanks to an emphasis on recruiting new archers.

“I want to add more people to the team and make people excited about doing archery,” Michulka said. “I’ve been trying to get more people by going around to friends trying to get them to join. I want to get a team big enough so we can have two teams competing.”

LEADING LINES: Senior Mariana Torres DeLine pauses for a moment before checking her arrows to determine her score for a set of five arrows. Each archer tabulates their own score under the supervision of tournament officials. In her debut at nationals, Torres-DeLine scored 270 points to finish second among McCallum archers. She recorded eight bullseyes. Reporting by Sophie Leung-Lieu. (Ellen Fox)

Unlike most sports, these teams compete as one team not as separate boys or girls teams, but there are gender rules that affect the scoring. Teams are allowed to have up to 24 archers, and the top 12 scores from the team determine their placement. Of those 12 scores, four have to be female and four have to be male; the other four spots go to the next highest scorers.

“It is one of the only sports, if not the only sport that I know of, where both [genders] have to contribute to the team score, which I find really cool,” Torres-DeLine said. “If someone’s having a personally bad day, there’s someone that’s having a good day and vice versa. So, the goal is just to do as great as you possibly can. If you have a goal of a certain score, try to reach it.”

Because of how archery is scored, any member can make the difference.

We missed practices because of the snowpocalypse, we missed practices because of rain, but yet they kept coming and kept doing it.

— archery coach Jim DeLine

“We’re always aiming for personal bests more than anything because even one point above what your normal average score is still an improvement and still helps our team,” Torres-DeLine said.
At nationals, seven Mac archers posted their personal best scores of the season: Geneva Miller, Jaden Mann, Memphis Mikeska-Benfield, Mason Walker, Saylor Barton, Sorcha Wilson and Vivian Boyd. Boyd led the team in scoring with 278 points including 14 bullseyes. Torres-DeLine was next at 270 with eight bullseyes. The team scored 3,156 points and shot 88 bullseyes to place 167th out of 247 high school teams across the nation and tied for eighth among Texas schools competing at nationals.

While archery is essentially an individual sport, Torres-DeLine says the she worked to make it more of a team experience.

“I really try to encourage people and point out when they’re doing something really good, or correct something that I know they can do better,” she said. “I try to check in with people as much as I possibly can. I’ve never been on a team for a sport ever so this team is like my child.”

But Torres-DeLine is not just a team captain. She is also a fierce competitor. She said the hardest part of competing is staying mentally focused.

“When you’re doing an individual sport, you can get in your head so easily,” Torres-DeLine said. “You have to learn to let that last round go because you don’t have time to dwell on it. It’s four minutes per shooting round, two minutes to pull arrows, so you have to move on from the last round.”

Torres-DeLine says the keys to develop mental toughness are simple: practice and a short memory.

“If you’re in the middle of shooting, and you’re shooting several bad arrows in a row, you have to get over that really quickly if you want to shoot your next arrows well,” she said. “A big part of archery is just to keep at it.”

PERFECT 70/50: Freshman Owen Johns, the McCallum archer shooting at Nationals 2021, is now infamous for shooting a perfect 70/50 at the Texas State competition earlier this year. OJ had shot 4 bullseyes and had one left to receive a perfect score. Since the targets located at state are very old and worn, arrows tend to bounce out. OJ’s last arrow bounced out of the 10 (bullseye). He was then given another arrow and did the exact same thing, bouncing the arrow out of the 10 onto the floor. On OJ’s third replacement arrow, he shot it directly into the 10 and it ricocheted back so far that it almost injured him. He caught the arrow in between his arm and his rib and the surrounding archers were in fear that he was hurt. Thankfully, he was not and continued to be one of the most successful archers in the McCallum team. Reporting by Sophie Leung-Lieu. (Anna McClellan)