By Al Chan (Kellen ‘18 and Makenna ‘16), Sports Beat Reporter on assignment!

April 2, 2016, Olympic Training Center, Chula Vista, California

“Grauer isn’t exactly an athletic powerhouse.” Parent Susy Pang (Brandon ’16) sat straight up when she heard that comment at a parent meeting. “Well, we are the reigning San Diego County Champions in archery!” she exclaimed.

In only its second year of competition, the Grauer Archers led by coaches Trevor Olson and Scott Leonhard hoisted the County Championship Team trophy above their shoulders last month. But they were just warming up. Last weekend they returned to the sprawling Olympic Training Center to challenge the best archers in the state.

Middle School Archers

Middle School Archers

Early in the day, Spencer W. ’17 was rigging his bow getting ready for a long day of intense competition. Coach walked through the Grauer encampment. “Good morning, Brandon. Hey, Spencer, did you get that new finger tab?” Spencer smiled and waved with his string hand fingers, “I like this one Coach.” Ordinary banter between a coach and player, but this wasn’t Grauer Coach Trevor or Coach Scott saying hello; it was Coach Sam from the John Muir School. After seeing and getting to know the Grauer team for the past two years, Coach Sam wanted to see the Grauer archers compete well, almost as much as he wanted his own team to succeed.

Archery seems to be an ideal sport for The Grauer School. Our archers compete at the highest level, and the sport’s culture fits so well into the school’s Core Values and small school culture. Huge doses of perseverance, compassion, kindness, and leadership would be on display as this day unfolded, not only from Team Grauer but between all the teams, as well.

The Grauer parents still looked sleepy eyed in the morning sun when Stuart Grauer came by to say hello and get a download on the rules of the competition. Being a relatively new sport to most Grauer parents, it took all of us to explain the ranking rounds and the scoring in the Olympic rounds. We got it mostly right. Coach Trevor came running over and snatched Stuart’s arm. “Sorry. I need the big guy.” He wanted to make sure Stuart said hello to Coach Scott and the Middle School team. Trevor later told me how integral Stuart has been in developing the school’s archery program. Trevor is an outstanding Athletic Director with Stuart quietly working with him in the background.

A few minutes later, Trevor bounced back over to me for a quick pep talk before the competition. “See that guy? He’s the head coach for Glendale High, the current state champs. Last year he saw me running all over the range talking to our athletes. He pulled me aside and clued me in that it might be better if I didn’t do that. Most coaches stay back during competition. This year I am going to try to surprise him by being more calm and letting things unfold just like he does.” As he bounced away, I found comfort in my belief that Trevor wouldn’t succeed in that endeavor. Trevor (an expert with a bow in his own right) has his own, charismatic style and is highly respected by parents and coaches all over the county.

After the morning rounds, the best archers from the San Diego teams squared off against the best from Los Angeles.  The largest contingent for Team San Diego came from Grauer as a result of the team’s success at the County Championship. They were joined by archers and friends from John Muir and La Jolla High. Grauer Archers quickly snapped off all three wins on the San Diego side. Towards the end of the dual, the final match looked too close to call, but Glendale’s coach looked closely at the target and was prepared to concede the round, giving San Diego the trophy. “No!” said Coach Trevor. “Let’s do the shoot-off.” A shoot-off breaks a tie. All 12 archers from each team would shoot one arrow and the team with the highest combined score wins. Trevor saw me watching and came over to explain. “No way we should win by him conceding. This is more fun!”  Well done, Coach. In the end, Los Angeles (featuring Glendale) squeaked out the victory, but everyone benefited from Trevor’s act of sportsmanship.

High School Archers

High School Archers

The shoot-off was intense with all eyes on the competition. Team LA’s arrows didn’t find anything but the center of the target. The pressure of hitting the target with only one arrow in the quiver was evident on every archer’s face.  All our archers took a deep breath, stared down the target, and persevered.

As the afternoon Olympic rounds began, I could see the grin on Stuart’s face reaching beyond his ears. “This is fantastic!”

I understood immediately. The Grauer athletes were, well, what we have grown accustomed to seeing from Grauer students: confident, respectful, supportive, and great ambassadors of our school. They laughed and joked with competitors between rounds, and cheered each other on throughout the day as friends.

Lily and Spencer

Lily and Spencer

Lily N. ‘17, Grauer’s top-ranked female archer, was having a great day. She was ready to shoot at the start of the semi-final round, but there was a problem. Her opponent wasn’t at the ready line in time, which resulted in a disqualification. That meant Lily could ease into the final match with no worse than a second place finish at the California State Championships. “Let’s shoot!” she offered. The judges re-convened, and granted Lily’s request. Compassion. Well done, Lily.

Spencer was having a great day, too. He had just won his quarter-final match knocking out his main rival throughout the year and San Diego County Singles champion, Kai Rensberry, from the John Muir School. Everyone on the range knows that when you shoot against Kai there is no room for error. Spencer’s aim was true. Kai congratulated him and said, “As much as I hate losing, I don’t mind losing to you, because you’re a heck of shot!” Kai stood behind Spencer during the semi-finals and provided the arm bashes after each round. Kai is also the son of Coach Sam. “He’ll be in college locally next year,” a Grauer student said. “Maybe we could hire him to help coach us.”

Dempsey and Charlie

Dempsey and Charlie

Meanwhile, at the indoor arena, the Middle School archers were having an equally big day, as Charlie M. ‘20 faced down his opponent in the finals. Tied until the last round, Charlie walked back with his final three arrows, and looked at his mentor, Dempsey H. ‘16. Dempsey is a Grauer high school senior. He works as a competitive archer primarily to advance his main skill in bow hunting. But most important, he is an outstanding mentor for younger students. He was not competing today, but made the effort to get down to the Olympic Center to support his friends. Charlie grinned at him and said only, “I got this,” then proceeded to take down the top archer in the state with a final, single arrow. Charlie will be the archer to beat at the National tournament and we look forward to seeing how far his archery career takes him.

Susy Pang is right. Champions walk the pathways of the Grauer campus, but in more ways than we can imagine. Whether learned from coaches, teachers, parents, friends, or just something innately in the Grauer student body, they certainly know how to achieve the right way – with honor. Next stop: National championships.

Grauer SchoolCongratulations to these Grauer Archers for their individual awards: Second Place Overall Girls (Silver Medal) – Lily N. ’17 Fourth Place Overall Boys – Spencer W. ’17 First Place Overall Middle School Boys (Gold Medal) – Charlie M. ’20