After establishing itself as the top elementary school program in Ohio for the second year in a row, the Bluffsview archery team took aim at the national title.
The Bears didn't win the championship in the National Archery in the Schools Program national tournament held May 10 and 11 in Louisville, Ky., but they made a strong showing by placing sixth of 109 elementary teams representing 22 states.
Bluffsview scored 3,228 points to finish 72 behind the national champion, Woodlawn (3,300) of Chatsworth, Ga. Rounding out the top five were Trigg County Intermediate (3,267) of Cadiz, Ky., Bay Creek (3,243) of Loganville, Ga., Hayden (3,235) of Indiana and Mount Vernon (3,230) of Iowa.
The Bears, whose roster was comprised of 15 girls and nine boys ranging from grades four to six, finished 64 points ahead of the next-best Ohio team, Zanesville Maysville, which placed 14th (3,164). Ohio was represented by eight elementary teams.
In the girls competition, Rachel Shaw (22nd, 280), Ava Schupp (62nd, 274), Anna Ezell (tied for 69th, 273) and Hannah Miller (tied for 81st, 272) all placed in the top 100 in a field of 1,440 competitors.
Also finishing in the top 500 were Madison Kelley (111th, 269), Jill Baumgardner (130th, 268), Amber Beals (214th, 263), Angela Lu (225th, 262), Anne Marazita (254th, 260), Julia Taylor (374th, 255) and Brooke Taylor (462nd, 252).
Leading the boys was Kevin Stone, who placed 68th (278) of 1,954 competitors.
Also finishing in the top 600 were Samuel Marano (239th, 267), Sebastian Shaskas (328th, 263), Jacob Fisher (454th, 259) and Brian Wilson (599th, 255).
Coach Ben Wilson lauded all of his archers for their work ethic and desire to polish their own skills and improve as a team.
"There's an inner satisfaction and peace of mind knowing that you have accomplished something that nobody can ever take away from you," coach Wilson said.
"They're very self-motivated ... They're competitive with one another, but they're also competitive with themselves."
Bluffsview qualified for the national tournament by winning the state tournament, which was held March 1 at Veterans Memorial in conjunction with the Arnold Sports Festival. The Bears scored 3,182 points to edge runner-up Logan-Hocking (3,181) for the title.
Logan-Hocking placed 32nd (3,109) in the national tournament.
Ezell, whose older sister, Allison, first inspired her to take up the sport and join the team, said the best part of competing is spending time with some of her best friends. She said she applies the lessons that coach Wilson teaches to her everyday life.
"In archery, every arrow counts kind of like how in life every little thing counts," Ezell said.
Ezell, who placed second among fifth-graders in the national tournament last year, is entering seventh grade and no longer is eligible to compete in the elementary division. She said she will miss being a member of the Bluffsview team, but is willing to help coach Wilson with the squad any way she can.
According to coach Wilson, the archery club, which began four years ago as part of Bluffsview's physical education class, was established with the help of financial contributions made by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Wildlife, the Worthington Educational Foundation and the Bluffsview PTA.
"It has been nothing but incredibly positive," coach Wilson said, referring to the support the club has received from the community.
Suzi Ezell, the mother of Anna and Allison, said that her daughters love archery so much that they brought their bows on a recent family vacation to South Carolina, using trees as makeshift targets.
"The kids love Ben Wilson. He has been a role model in their lives," Suzi Ezell said.
Two other elementary schools in Worthington have an archery club: Granby and Worthington Park. Neither team qualified for the national tournament.