Kenny Haberer is always looking for a scapegoat. But in a sport as individual as archery it's normally Mother Nature at which he's shaking his finger. Not Friday afternoon.
After a day and a half of individual competition, the archers of Western New York banded together for the team round competition at the Empire State Games. Entering round three of the gold-medal match, Western was tied with Adirondack -- an oddity for the sport, remarked several officials. A flurry of arrows outside the golden bull's-eye in the team's weakest round of the afternoon dropped Western to a second-place finish.
"I like the team [competition] better because at least you can blame it on somebody," Haberer said amongst snickers from his teammates. "When I'm on my own and I shoot a bad arrow it's like, who am I going to blame it on? Oh yeah, I always blame it on the wind, rotation of the earth, sun in the eyes."
Haberer (Boston) paired with Kelly Maxwell (East Aurora) and Ricky and Jennifer Fabiszewski (Cheektowaga) to compose the Western archery team, which is given four minutes to shoot three arrows each during the team competition. Ricky was the only returning archer from last year, where he finished with a bronze in the individual all-around and contributed to the Western team's gold-medal performance.
Western entered Friday's team competition as the favorite with a first-round bye because of the archers combined total scores after Thursday's and Friday morning's results were tallied. They easily topped Long Island, 292-203, en route to the gold-medal round. Had they been able to duplicate their semifinal performance, Western's archers would have clinched first place. Instead, they shot rounds of 89, 91 and 84 for the cumulative 270-264 loss. Haberer was the high scorer for the squad, with 71 total points. He was the only one of the group to shoot a 10-point bull's-eye in the final round, though he would have needed to finish the day with three straight bull's-eyes to tie Adirondack.
In addition to the sibling duo, the bloodlines run deep through the Buffalo archery scene. Haberer's father, Kenneth, was a part of the gold-medal Western team in the open division. Kenny may be jealous but claims he won't be stealing his father's medal -- he'll just alter his own.
"If we win silver, you just paint it gold," Kenny said. "I've been doing this for years. I don't have a single silver trophy."
The scholastic competition has each archer shoot at distances of 30, 40, 50 and 60 meters twice over the four days. Through four events -- their first attempts at each distance -- with four to go, the younger Haberer is currently in place to take the bronze in the individual all-around while Ricky Fabiszewski stands in fifth.
Jennifer Fabiszewski occupies the second-place slot in the girls' scholastic division, 44 points behind the leader -- an Adirondack girl on whom she plans to seek vengeance.
"[Adirondack] is right around me in first and third, so I want to beat them in something," she said.
Maxwell sits in sixth, but expects to perform better.
"Every single competition I'm in, the first half, first day I do worse," Maxwell said. "Like during tryouts, I did 865 the first week, and then I came back and got 1039 [the second week]."
Maxwell and Fabiszewski both outshot Haberer's twin sisters to make this year's Empire team.
"These two stomped on them and killed their dreams," Maxwell's dad, Bill, joked.
"Yeah that's right," quipped Haberer. "How do you feel picking on 10-year-olds?"
The light-heartedness flowing under the Western tent helps create cohesion in a sport in which devotion is heavily rewarded. After all, none of them has had the opportunity to play with a scholastic team.
The Fabiszewskis shoot at a club several times a week, while Haberer has a target set up in his yard, with a range of up to 90 meters.
Having begun the day with 8:15 a.m. practice, all families present were ready to pack it in at the end of the team round at 4:30 p.m. Individual competition resumes today and will finish Sunday.
With sweat beading down his face, Rich Fabiszewski, took in the day as he watched his children.
"This is what makes the $1,500 worth of archery equipment and the $800 worth of pop for the drive down worth it," Rich said. "It's just priceless."