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‘WE CROSSED OUR FINGERS AND TOES THAT NOBODY WOULD BEAT US’

HIGHEST FINISH EVER

Hankinson 11-year-old wins national tourney

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Danica Onchuck has a routine when she takes the line at archery tournaments. This runs through her head, “don’t forget to breathe, do your best and have fun.”

Turns out an established routine has worked well for this 11-year-old from Great Bend after Danica was the top elementary girl shooter at the NASP Western Nationals in both 3-D and bullseye competitions held April 25-26 at Salt Lake City.

After placing first or second in every NASP tournament this year, she turned that consistency into a national championship.

“I told myself (nationals) was just like a normal practice, but with a lot more people. Then I told myself to just shoot your best like you always do,” Danica said

Danica shot 284 at Western Nationals, which included 18 tens. Because she qualified individually for the national tournament, her score could also be used on Pirate Archery’s high school team, helping Hankinson take second place at Salt Lake City. Their team score of 3,294 was only bested by Battlefield High School out of Virginia, which took top honors with 3,361 points.

Pirate Archery coaches watched the May 9-11 Eastern Nationals at Louisville, Kentucky, closely. As long as another North Dakota high school team didn’t beat their score, Hankinson was looking to qualify for the NASP Open tournament scheduled July 25 for Nashville, Tennessee.

Natural born archer

Danica is a fifth grader at Hankinson Public School. She is only in her second year of competitive archery, following in the footsteps of older sister Ariana.

Coach Jodi Sander called her a natural. “We don’t worry when Danica takes the line. She does practice, yes, but doesn’t have to try,” Sander said. “We are all in awe just watching her.”

Her parents are Arnel and Danette Onchuck, who were blown away at how well their daughter did at the national tournament, Danette Onchuck said. They knew she had a chance of placing, but never thought she would win, she said.

Pressure doesn’t seem to get to Danica, Danette Onchuck said. She is in her own little world when she takes the line and just places the arrow in the yellow bullseye.

“She doesn’t care about winning. When she wins a tournament, she kind of looks at me and says, ‘that’s nice.’ She really doesn’t care,” Danette Onchuck said.

Older sister Ariana also had her best showing ever at nationals. Her 280 was good enough to place her in the top 10 among middle school girls and was the third best finish on Hankinson’s team.

The final flight

Hankinson coaches decided to attend Salt Lake City this year instead of the annual trek to Louisville. This is only the second year the national tournament was split into western and eastern divisions.

Instead of having 12,000 archers, Salt Lake City had numbers closer to 1,200, Sander said.

“We looked at last year’s scores and knew we had a better chance at Salt Lake. Just taking our kids there, it built up morale and made them feel more positive about the experience,” she said.

Hankinson competed against 22 other high schools in the team competition. Taking second in the bullseye division is the highest Hankinson has ever taken at a national tournament, she said. At the Eastern Nationals, the average is closer to 80 teams, Sander said. Typically Hankinson falls mid-pack in the team competition there, so coaches were ecstatic at taking second at Salt Lake.

Eighteen Hankinson archers shot in the bullseye division, with only the top 12 scores making up the final score. Hankinson was near the top of the pack in the 3-D shoot as well. Hankinson was coming up second until the final flight bumped them lower in the team standings, Sander said.

The bullseye competition was flowing the same way, with Hankinson in second place until the final flight on Saturday. Sander said it was difficult watching Pirate Archery hold that second-place finish all the way to the end.

It was a close one. Turns out AIMS@UNM of New Mexico was only two points behind Hankinson and took third place. The New Mexico team shot a 3,292, while Prosper ISD out of Texas was fourth with a 3,291.

Coaches watched the NASP app on their cell phones to track progress throughout the two-day tournament. In fact, Sander said she is constantly looking at the NASP app on her cell phone.

“A lot of people are fantasy football watchers. I watch NASP sores. As soon as they upload scores, I am on it,” Sander said.

Pirate Archery individual scores

• Chase Bladow, 288, 14th among high school boys; Danica Onchuck, 284, first among elementary girls, 11th overall; Ariana Onchuck, 280, 10th among middle school girls; Bodie Anderson, 280; Cheyne Meyer, 279; Kirstan Loewen, 279; Rylan Sanders, 277; Austin Bladow, 273; Jaycee Brown, 268; Jaidyn Sander, 267; Logan Stirling, 261; Clayton Stone, 258; Morgan Ohm, 256; Jordan Brown, 254; Jewels Hamling, 253; Alicia Biewer, 224; Ally Habib, 241; Cody Meyer, 231.

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Karen Speidel is the News-Monitor Media Managing Editor

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