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On the mark

Charlo’s Aspen Runkel wins the National Archery in Schools Program state championship for second straight year

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Step up to the line and make sure your feet are shoulders’ length apart, take a deep breath, load the arrow, pull back, make sure you’re steady, look at the target, release the arrow, keep your pose until the arrow hits the target and then do it all over again.

The above checklist is Aspen Runkel’s ritual every time she shoots an arrow at an archery competition and lately the Charlo 14-year-old has made it a ritual to become the top female archer in the state.

Runkel was recently notified that she had the highest score amongst all the girls that competed in the 2010 Montana National Archery in Schools Program Tournament. The news came as somewhat of a surprise since Runkel’s score of 272 out of a possible 300 was four points less than her winning score at Anaconda the past year.

The incoming Charlo freshman also won her age group in Helena in 2008. Not bad for somebody who had to be begged to compete in her first tournament. As a fifth grader, Runkel went to Stevensville to watch her sister Sawyer shoot. Charlo was short a person, and the coach asked Runkel if she would shoot for the team.

“We practically had to drag her out there, but she was definitely a natural,” Runkel’s mother, Samantha said.

After practicing five minutes outside the gym, Runkel won her age group and was intrigued by her newfound sport.

“Not a lot of people participate in archery ... it was something I could do that was a little outside of the box and it takes a lot of skill to be consistent and be able to focus,” Runkel said.

“You have to be able to be steady and concentrate and be able to shoot the same way every time you shoot. It’s kind of like shooting a free throw. Once you figure it out you can get a perfect shot every time,” said Runkel, who also plays basketball and volleyball.

While Runkel said archery isn’t as high energy as the other sports, it’s very intense and she also likes the individualistic nature of the sport. 

In NASP competitions, all competitors use a Genesis compound bow with a draw weight of 10-20 pounds. Archers can’t use sights or release triggers. Archers shoot three sets of five arrows from 15 meters and then shoot another three sets of five arrows from 20 meters. They get 10 points for hitting the 80-centimeter bull’s-eye and are docked a point for each ring outside the bull’s-eye.

Unlike in past years, where the state tournament was held in one location, this year’s competition was held in three different locations and the scores were sent in and compared. Charlo competed with Plains and Dixon in Plains April 12. 

Runkel, who was awarded a yellow Genesis bow for winning the state title, said having the competition in separate locations made it less intense than in past years.


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