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WESTERN TEAM AGAIN LEADS THE PACK

It's probably the last team you'd think of when listing Western's most dominating teams in the Empire State Games. You'd never guess its scholastic team is undefeated in six years of team competition or that it has churned out the men's and women's scholastic individual winners for the last three years.

But that's exactly what the Western archery team has done, quietly shooting the arrows that put them at the top of the podium but fly under the radar of most ESG fans.

"It's kind of like the forgotten sport," Matt Ells said. "You tell people you do archery and they are surprised to hear about it."

"I could see how it's boring for other people," said Melissa Chamberlin, 15, of Lancaster. "It's not as interesting as soccer and all that, but there are a lot of different high and low points."

The few dozen in attendance for Friday's archery all-around 30-meter finals saw their share of high and low points, and with no surprise, Western turned in most of the high points.

Chamberlin led the women's scholastic with 311 points, pushing her two-day total to 1,103. Kristen Pfeil, 13, of Boston, scored 271 points for second place with 1,017.

In the men's scholastic 30-meter finals, a pair of 17-year-olds from Angola remained in second and third behind Long Island's Steven Litwin, who has 1,134 points. Chris Sciarrino got 258 points to push his total to 1,042, and Ells scored 290 to put him at 1,032.

Toni Kowalewski, of Boston, added 317 points to push her leading total to 1,140 points in women's open.

The individual winners are determined by adding the points earned shooting at four distances over three days. Medals will be awarded following today's final event, the 600 round of arrows shot at three distances. The team competitions take place Sunday in which coed groups of four are given four minutes to shoot three arrows each.

"We're lucky enough to be able to get four shooters to come out, and four good shooters in that, so we're able to put a big team together," said Chamberlin, who won an individual silver medal and a team gold in her first ESG last year. "The team round is more for fun. It's like bragging rights."

Western scholastic coach Joseph Ells, Matt's father, said he barely has to do anything to help his extremely talented team succeed other than keeping them focused.

"Archery is a game of perfection," Joseph Ells said. "You want to get it in the gold (a bull's-eye) every time, but no one's perfect. So you beat yourself up to a point where you get into a state of aggravation.

"I always tell them to take your mind off archery. Think about blue skies, sunshine, the Bahamas -- anything to keep you relaxed."

Most of Western's shooters already have their own styles, considering they each have at least six years of archery experience.

Chamberlin goes through the same routine of focusing on the target, diverting her attention to the green blades of grass to ease her nervousness and tension before turning back and letting her arrow fly.

Not to mention she sports a unique look with a crooked hat hanging off the right side of her head, a fuzzy pink scrunchy tickling her left wrist and a giant pink belt wrapped around the Western dark blue T-shirt and shorts.

"With archery, everyone thinks it should be this simple sport that's all uniform," Chamberlin said. "But everyone's unique and we all bring that to the sport."

But even in light of Western's colorful outfits, individual idiosyncrasies and unheralded success, Chamberlin knows archery will never catch on as a major spectator sport.

"It's like watching paint dry," she said. "Even the archers get bored sometimes."
e-mail: efontes@buffnews.com

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