MESCALERO – First, Mescalero’s Apache Bowbender archery team had to win the state title and earn their way to nationals.
Next, they had to find a way to get there.
Consider Mescalero’s ticket punched, the Bowbenders – this school’s only state champion of any kind – is headed to Louisville, Ky., for the National Archery In the Schools nationwide championships.
How they get there is still an issue – whether it’s by the Mescalero tribe’s jet or via regular commercial air – but the fact remains the Tribal Council has thrown its full support behind this team.
“This is the first step in a direction for success,” said Mescalero coach Godfrey Cordova. “Our tribe has always stepped forward and helped these kids. That’s a big plus for them.”
Mescalero is constantly preparing for nationals, which will be May 7-9, taking two hours each afternoon to hone their aim.
They’re so well-tuned already, Cordova usually doesn’t have to say a word. Just bursts on a whistle tell the athletes when to shoot, when to retrieve the arrows, when to stand down.
“In the National Archery Association, it’s all whistle commands. They just have to know what the whistle means and where they have to be,” Cordova said. “It’s all about being safe. The kids at the beginning of the year learn the parts of the bow, they learn the stance, all that is part of the learning process.
“From there, it’s just repetition,” he added. “The more arrow you fling, the better you get at it.”
One reason Mescalero’s archers have been able to practice so much – they loose about 300 arrows per day – is that the administration made this a regular class period, as per NASP guidelines.
It’s been quite a trajectory for the Bowbenders, seeing how there was no archery program at all at Mescalero until last year.
Now they’re state champions and about to head halfway across the country to prove their skills against hundreds of other archers.
“It’s an enjoyable event to watch these kids excel in,” Cordova said. “At the beginning of the year we’re not even close to being competitive, then to watch them mature and get better with their technique. It’s really neat.”
A total of 23 kids are making the long trip, with a good portion of those girls. That’s another NASP requirement. Twelve of the highest scores are recorded, with at least four of those being of the opposite gender.
In this case, that “opposite gender” is female, and Mescalero boasts some pretty good female archers.
Freshman Elisa Kanseah is one of them.
“When I shoot, it feels great. It’s changing who I am,” Kanseah said. “It’s making me a better person. When we won a state title, I was amazed. I didn’t expect that to happen.”
Cordova said the girls’ scoring is why Mescalero now owns a state title.
“This year, our girls did a lot better shooting, and I think that’s what pushed us over for those points,” Cordova said. “The young girls stepped up and shot really well. That’s what made the difference for us.”