Targeting success: Staves, Trudeau head to archery nationals

Fluffy golden brown pancakes cooked on the iron grill, a crackling fire in the old stone fireplace and a warm glow on old fish, taxidermy pheasants and old maps set the scene Sunday. The place was the Tupper Lake Rod and Gun Club where the Tupper Lake Youth Archery Club held its fundraiser. All the while the wind howled outside and the sky alternately spit sleet and snow on an otherwise slushy spring day. It was warm inside and the food was good; sausages, strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream on griddle cakes with genuine New York maple syrup was enough to give any pancake house a run for the money. This was all made possible by the Tupper Lake Archers and the Tupper Lake Youth Archery Club members who put down their bows and arrows to wait on tables, collect donations at the door and serve fresh-brewed coffee and hot chocolate as their guests arrived.

The reason for the early spring breakfast money-raiser and the outpouring of support from the community was to help fund a trip to Kentucky where two Tupper Lake youth archers will join 10,800 other young archers for the National Archery in Schools (NASP) national tournament. The tournament will be held May 8-10, Kentucky for young archers in grades four through twelve.

Brionna Staves, age 15, will shoot for her third year at the nationals, and Andrew Trudeau, 14 will attend the NSAP national championships in Louisville for his first time. Both of the young archers are from Tupper Lake.

Brionna and Andrew qualified for the NASP nationals earlier when they competed in the New York State championship tournament. Of the 16 youth archers from the Tupper Lake School District, 11 archers participated in the state championships held March 7 at each school involved. That tourney featured 607 participants who shot targets in their respective schools. The scoring results were tabulated via email in a virtual scoring tournament, however the arrows they shot at targets in each respective school were very much real. The tournament was held at the high school. Brionna qualified for the nationals with 261 points out of 300 possible points on the target. That was the same as her qualification shoot last year, although, she said this year’s total was an “off day” and she had been shooting 280s in practice. Last year’s 261 qualified her for the nationals for a second time in 2013. Her first nationals qualification came when she was just 13.

Andrew shot a 255 this year in the state championship which he said was a little better than last year’s 223.

“Concentration is key,” both archers said this week. “And a lot of practice rounds,” Brionna said.

One thing is certain, both of them devote a lot of time to archery. So does their coach, mentor and program director Pam Savard of Tupper Lake whose son Griffin is also in the youth archery club at Tupper Lake.

The teenagers know that basic stance and technique are key, however the number one priority before they ever take up the bow, nock an arrow or look through the sight at the target- is safety, “first and foremost,” said Coach Savard. She is a retired health and physical education teacher from the Tupper Lake Central School District .

“The first priority at any meet or practice is to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to safety,” she said, “especially for the little kids.”

That’s why the meets are strictly regimented in safety. Generally there are commands spoken by officials at meets that include “get bows, shoot, get arrows,” common instructions to which everyone on the shooting line must adhere strictly.

In a meet as big as the upcoming NASP Nationals in Kentucky, where there will be upwards of 400 archers on the line at a time, voice commands are drowned out by the hubbub and whistle signals are used. Thus the Tupper Lake youth archers have been practicing with whistle blown commands for the last few weeks.

Both archers have received a lot of help from their grandfathers. Andrew Trudeau is only in his second year with the Tupper Lake High School youth archery program, but he has been shooting archery with his grandfather, John Hoyt, an avid archer and an active member of the Tupper Lake Archers under the auspices of the Tupper Lake Rod and Gun Club.

Brionna Staves has been with the school program for the past three years, however her shooting prowess on the archery range is also attributable to her early introduction to the sport by her grandfather, Fred LaMere, also a dyed in the wool member of the Rod and Gun Club and Tupper Lake Archers. She said she began shooting with her grandfather when she was just seven or eight years old and has always loved the sport.

The young shooters use competition Genesis compound bows, the same as they use in the gym at the high school. Brionna has owned her own bow for the past two years, she said. While Andrew said he uses the bows from school, they both said they practice a lot in the off season.

Is there any secret to her cool poise as she pulls back the string and prepares to let the arrow fly? “It helps to put off all else, but it’s still frustrating when you keep missing,” Brionna admitted. “I try not to really think about it when I’m shooting. It becomes almost instinctual to a point, but if you over think it, things go wrong.” Andrew agrees.

Last year when the archers made the trip to Louisville, a 14 hour car trip, the ride was very taxing. This year they have opted to fly out of Burlington, which will cut the trip down to three or four hours, which will both reduce fatigue and give them a little more time for sightseeing around the Louisville area, where they hope to visit Churchill Downs where the Kentucky Derby is held and to see the Louisville Slugger Museum. They’ll also get to do some fun archery stuff like an archery skeet shoot, bow fishing and moving targets and archery golf. They will be taken care of in good style at the Crown Plaza right across from the big Louisville Convention Center where the national meet will be held.

“Archery is a lifelong skill,” Brionna allows. She said she has also hunted with a bow without hitting anything so far. “I would like to pursue archery for the rest of my life,” she said. She’s on the right track for that goal. She has been a participant in the Tupper Lake Archers Mountain Challenge, a two day event with four courses through hilly wooded terrain where archers shoot at plastic 3-D targets shaped like animals. The Tupper Lake Archers Mountain Challenge is the biggest archery event in the northern Adirondacks and one of the biggest 3-D shoots in the state. She has also competed in numerous other archery shoots around the area and in the Adirondacks including the Peru 3-D shoot, the Chesterfield shoot, and archery contests in Dannemora and Colton.

For Andrew, the trip to Louisville will be the first time in his life traveling to Kentucky, and he said he can’t wait.

Youth archery in Tupper Lake is sponsored in part by a 21st Century Grant through Cornell University. There are a total of 40 budding archers in Tupper Lake in the grade two through sixth grade group learning safety and archery skills. They are bussed up to the Rod and Gun Club’s archery range for seven Thursdays through the winter. That’s beyond the 16 high school archers who practice in the gym all winter.

Mrs. Savard wrote a separate grant to recover the cost of replacement arrows and targets. Splitting an arrow down the middle with another arrow is a big deal the first time it happens but after two or three times it becomes a costly waste of arrows that need to be replaced or repaired.

The Tupper Lake Archers are also a major sponsor of the youth archery program at the high school and recently purchased 12 Genesis regular size bows, three minis, and three children’s bows. Tupper Lake Archers members Kathy Tessier and John Hoyt volunteer to assist the program and other Tupper Lake Archer members like Scott LaLonde, Ray McIntosh and Mike Dominie are frequent assistant volunteers for the program. George Harriman ran the elementary youth archery program for years.

Despite the hours both Brionna and Andrew spend on the archery practice range they are both well rounded students. Andrew was in the recent Tupper Lake High School musical, he plays in the band and sings in the chorus. Brionna is also in the band and chorus, she’s on the varsity softball team and the varsity volleyball team, and was also in the school musical and is a member of SADD (Students Against Destructive Decision). Both are honor students. Both join an elite company of high school students who are proficient archers. They can’t win any money, or any professional compensation, just recognition, but for now, that’s good enough for them. “Besides that it’s fun!” Brionna said.

All of the phys ed teachers at both Tupper Lake High School and the elementary school are Basic Archery Instructor (BAI) certified in the eleven steps to archery success and that keeps the sport focused as a good consistent routine which keeps it safe.

The youth archers are scored on a ring target with a bulls-eye worth 10 points and ten concentric rings worth scores in descending order from 10 through 1 for the outside ring.