My name is Grace Frickenstein and I am sixteen years old. I’ve been shooting for about five years now and if there is one thing that I know for sure it’s that I am absolutely in love with the sport of archery.
I also know that change can sometimes be scary. This outdoor season, which is coming to an end, I stepped farther out of my comfort zone than I ever have and I am so glad that I did!
The first tournament that I attended this year was Illinois Joad State. My best friend George and I traveled together and we had a really awesome time despite rough winds. Little did we know what was to come at outdoor nationals! I ended up ranking first after the qualification rounds and then won gold during eliminations, making me the nine-time state champion in my division. It was a very refreshing way to start the outdoor season, but all I could really think about was what came next.
In the middle of June, George and I both attended the Junior Dream Team camp in Phoenix, Arizona. It was all we could talk about since we both found out we were able to attend, and it didn’t feel real until we both passed out on the plane with our headphones in! The moment that we landed started the most exciting, exhausting week of archery that either of us had ever experienced. We were exposed to tons of new ideas and coaching methods that completely opened our eyes. In addition, we made friends with many members of the team, who are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. I worked very hard at camp and came home after the long week ready to work even harder. My coach at home was eager to hear all that we learned and we began reinforcing the ideas immediately.
After camp, I was fortunate enough to start shooting with Dana, one of my best friends, and Alex Wifler, who won Vegas in 2015. I began to shoot with him and learn even more about the archery world that I could have imagined. He pushed me to switch from my thumb button to a hinge release, which scared me at the time. Once I started to shoot it though, I was completely committed. I didn’t care that there were only three weeks until nationals at the time, I was going to perfect my release as best as I could. There was nothing that was stopping me. And then my string broke.
I was shooting at Alex’s and several strands of my string around my peep sight broke. Thankfully I was in the perfect place to have a technical difficulty and we got it fixed fairly quickly. Now, with only two weeks until nationals I had a new release and new strings. I shot every opportunity that I had, which was pretty much every single day, considering its summer and I don’t do much else besides archery. With a few days left to go, I had tightened my group to only yellow and I was radiating happiness. I was shooting better than I ever had and I was really excited to bring it to competition. Finally, it came time to get in the car and head to Indianapolis for nationals.
The first day, which is simply practice and check in, is always rather euphoric. The booths with the latest equipment and the signature Lancaster truck line the sides of the path leading to the fields. My favorite part is finding friends that you have met at other tournaments across the country. I quickly found some girls from camp in June, and well as Alex and a few other pro archers that I have been fortunate enough to meet and talk to in the past. There is also something different about seeing your own teammates at a large venue away from home that is exciting to me.
About half way through the first day of qualifications Indianapolis coined the name Windy Indy, because it was one of the most difficult winds I have ever had to shoot in, and everyone was struggling. By the time we got to the last day, people were no longer shooting to hit tens, but simply to keep their arrows on the paper. The compound cadet girls were joking that if even the pro archers were missing, which they were, than it was okay if we were too. I struggled particularly with letting down with my new release, and with shooting a hinge in the wind in general. Many of the other girls were switching to their thumb buttons, but I was determined. In the end I am proud of myself for holding out, because even though my scores were not as good as they could have been, I am that much more ready to face tough conditions with my new release now than ever.
After nationals I ended the season the same way as I started it, at state. This time around it was Non-Joad Illinois state and I was ready. When I arrived there was no wind and I knew that it was going to be a good day. I ended up shooting a 636, which not only put me in first place, but it also meant that I qualified for the Junior Dream Team selection camp that is being held this November in Phoenix. I had already planned to attend, but now I was officially able to go! It was very exciting and I actually threw my hands up in the air when my mom told me, and my friends all hugged me.
This summer has been crazy and full to the brim with archery. There were so many times when I was nervous about how things would play out, but in the end I couldn’t have asked for anything else. If you are ever offered an opportunity to try something new I am encouraging you to take it because there is only one place for you to go, and that is up!