Mark Nale - Afield | Philipsburg archer heads to USCA Intercollegiate Championships in Utah

Philipsburg archer heads to USCA Intercollegiate Championships in Utah

Ross Senior draws his Hoyt compound bow, holds steady and looks through his magnifying sight to the colored target more than half a football field away. His eye and mind are fixated on the tiny bullseye a full 50 meters distant.

This Philipsburg native has only shot bow and arrow at the college level for two years, but his skills have landed him a spot on the Penn State Archery Club traveling team. The five-member squad will compete in the United States Collegiate Archery Association Championships to be held May 16-19, at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah.

Although Senior has been shooting competitive archery for only two years, he has been bow hunting since the age of 12.

“I had a bow since I was little,” Senior noted. “Just shooting in the backyard with my older brother Ian. It is my brother who got me into hunting.”

Despite his archery accuracy, which is one half of the formula to bagging a buck, Senior related that the other half — luck — was not with him. Last year, he only saw spike bucks, which are not legal game.

“I got to draw my bow back several times on deer, but each time, as it got closer, it turned out to be a spike,” Senior said. “Ian shot a doe last season.”

The serious business of collegiate competition begins in Utah in just a few days. Official practice and bow inspection takes place in Cedar City on May 16. This is followed by qualification rounds on May 17-18. Team rounds will also occur on the May 18.

Archers shoot 72 arrows — 12 rounds of six arrows each — to qualify, with their overall scores determining seeding for Sunday’s elimination rounds. Elimination rounds pair archers by seed. Each archer shoots five rounds of three arrows each, for a total of 15 arrows. A bullseye scores 10 points and a perfect round would be 150.

Senior’s best round ever was a 136, which helped him to place highly in 2012. He competed in the Bow hunter Division at the USCA Championships in Harrisonburg, Va., last year and finished ninth in the nation. Fellow teammate Andrew Hower finished eighth in that same division — besting Senior by only a few points.

Hower and his coach, Ron Ayers, have high hopes for Utah.

“I’d like to place in the top three nationally,” commented Hower, a PSU senior who hails from Northampton. “This year, I have better equipment, more practice, and I’ve really benefitted from coaching — both from Larry Wise and Ron Ayers.”

Last year, the team was able to transport their equipment with them as they drove to Virginia, but not this year, because they are flying.

“I’m not really anxious about the national competition, but I am nervous about my bow arriving safely in Utah,” Hower stated. “I shipped it FedEx on Wednesday.” Other team members did the same.

Coach Ayers has high praise for Hower, Senior and team member Adam Swick, who is in his final year of collegiate competition.

“Andrew and Adam are our leading shots at landing an All American this year. They are very dedicated,” Ayers commented. “Ross is also making real progress and he takes coaching well. I show him something new once or maybe twice and by the third practice, he’s got it.”

According to Ayers, Hower is currently ranked first in the east in the bow hunter division, and Swick is ranked fifth in the east in the compound division.

The Penn State team is only a club sport, which makes it rough on the team members as compared to some of the colleges that it competes against.

“For the most part, our archers pay their own way — travel and equipment — which is quite expensive,” Ayers observed. “We held a fund-raising invitational shoot at the Tyrone Sportsmen’s Club in February and that really helped us. The team also gets some money from USCA and the university.”

Other team members competing in Utah include Eric Buggy, a junior from Halifax majoring in environmental resource management, and freshman Mike Suder, a mechanical engineering major from Langhorne. Suder competes in the bow hunter division, while Buggy shoots in the more competitive compound division, the same as Senior.

When Senior is not attending classes as a psychology major or shooting target archery, he enjoys bow hunting, playing his guitar and working on a VW dune buggy — a family project.

Senior, a 20-year-old junior at Penn State, commented about any pressure that he might have going into this year’s championships. “Actually, I am looking toward this competition as a rebuilding year. I want to do my best, but since I changed divisions and purchased a new bow, I don’t see myself doing better than last year,” he said. “I’m sure that I will have some pre-shoot jitters, but once I get on the line, I am able to clear my head,” he said. “I don’t notice anything else except the target in front of me.”

Senior is looking forward to the outdoor competition, which he prefers over the indoor events.

“I like shooting outside. There is just more variability,” he said. “A little wind bothers some archers, but it doesn’t faze me. It can be anyone’s day out there.”

Best wishes to Senior, Hower and the other PSU team members in their upcoming contests in Utah.