My dad has always been a handgun shooter. I went to the gun range with him when I was younger but I never liked it. The smell and noise were always too much for me and I was just never interested.
I always knew I wanted to do a sport, though. I had tried a few different sports by then, such as gymnastics, tennis, swimming, soccer, and dance. I was either not good at them or didn’t like them.
One day, my dad asked me if I wanted to go to the archery range. After seeing movies like “The Hunger Games” and “Brave,” I was all for it.
We went to T.A.Z. Archery in Woodstock, Illinois. I remember like it was yesterday how excited I was. I loved shooting instantly and the owner, Tim Zimmerman, could tell. He told me I should sign up for his JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) Team. In February of 2014, I signed up when I got my first bow for my birthday: a PSE Fever One. I LOVED it. A month or two later, I went to my very first tournament. My dad and I woke up at 3 a.m. to go to Presley’s Outdoors Store in Peoria, Illinois, to shoot this small tournament. I have never been so nervous in my life. I pulled through and won my category (that only included one other girl) and I freaked out. I got home and hung my medal on the post of my bed and looked at it every night before I fell asleep and every morning when I woke up.
My second archery year, 2015, was very eventful. I went to JOAD Indoor Nationals in Lansing, Michigan, NFAA Indoor Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky, and JOAD Outdoor Nationals in Decatur, Alabama. I traded up to a purple PSE Dominator. My sister Lauren started shooting recurve.
My third archery year, 2016, started with a trip to Vegas – which was the most amazing experience ever. We didn’t shoot as well as we would have liked but we definitely learned from it and had a great time. At JOAD Outdoor Nationals back in Alabama, I had a horrible first three days and was really upset. I made a promise to myself that I would pull through and do my absolute best in the team round. I did, and my team won silver. My first National medal. I praised it nearly as much as that first medal from Presley’s.
I have competed in many tournaments since then. I earned my bronze Olympic outdoor pin, won highest Female Compound at ITAA Indoor State and JOAD Outdoor State this year. I traded up again to my newest bow: a Mathews TRX 7 I named Michonne (after the character in The Walking Dead). A few other teammates and I also enrolled in a kettlebell workout class this summer which has helped me improve so much. I recently increased my draw weight to fifty pounds just before this year’s Outdoor Nationals which helped so much in the windy conditions of Indiana.
Speaking of 2017 Outdoor Nationals, I think I did really well. I put in the work and the practice and I placed 8th in qualifications. We endured 20+ MPH crosswinds, so my score just had to do for those days. Eliminations were awesome. I didn’t quite finish where I wanted, but I was pretty happy with it because I definitely improved as I believe I earned a 5th place finish. In the team round, I was grouped with great shooters from my category and we won the gold. My second National medal. After shooting my best all weekend, getting that gold medal placed around my neck felt really good. Coming back from that, I am inspired to practice more and work even harder toward realizing my new goal: bringing home an individual National medal next year.
To wrap up this story, I just want to tell all you young archers that if you want something, go get it. Just know it takes work and dedication. Remember that you’re doing it for yourself, not for anyone else. If you want a gold National medal, YOU put in the work, YOU shoot the winning score, YOU win the medal. Simple.
The best advice I could ever give anyone in archery: just shoot your bow.