NAU Archery Club shoots off
By Justin Regan
After the releases of recent blockbuster hits like The Hunger Games and The Avengers, the mighty bow and arrow has embedded itself firmly into the fabric of popular culture. While this causes some people to view the bow as a device to bring down legions of Uruk-hai or Chitauri, some find a more practical use for the bow that involves good competition, good workout and great memories. This is the world of collegiate archery.
“My younger sister was on the Dine College Archery team and I went to a couple of her competitions,” says Janice Wilson, a junior nursing major. “I thought it was a fun sport, something for me to do besides school work.”
Archery has become a full-time passion for Wilson. She is the president of the Northern Arizona University (NAU) Archery Club and has racked up multiple archery scholarships while being currently ranked the number eight female archer in the country.
The NAU Archery Club is broken into two groups: the traveling team that participates in competitions, and the other club members who join the team at archery practice in Centennial Forest every weekend.
One club member is Christian Valdez, a sophomore secondary English education major.
“I remember watching archery in the Olympics when I was younger,” Valdez says. “I thought it was pretty intense. Honestly, that’s what drew me to it.”
While Valdez is not a member of the traveling competition team, he still enjoys his time at the range and the sense of power and discipline he gets from holding a bow.
For the traveling team, representing NAU at various archery competitions involves packing into cars and driving as far as West Virginia, in some cases.
“I saw everything [the team] had to go through before the trip with all the planning,” Valdez says. “We had such a small amount of money left in the Archery Club budget [that] they literally had to empty out their pockets and piece everything together.”
The long drives and dollar menus do not deter the team from going the distance to compete on the national collegiate stage.
“Those that really love it will keep going,” Wilson says.
Competitors partake in indoor and outdoor competitions and can choose from two different classes of bow. The re-curve bow is described as the classic bow from summer camp, while the compound bow is a little more complex and comes with wheels. For every arrow a competitor shoots, they earn a maximum of ten points for hitting the innermost circle of the target or the bullseye. Each exterior circle is one point less than the previous.
The shooting series consists of six shot arrows when outdoors and three when indoors. Each series is called an “end,” and for outdoor competitions, six ends make up one round, while there are ten ends for indoors. After four total rounds, the outdoor and indoor points are individually added up and then combined to see where the individual archer ranks with the other archers in the country.
While from a distance the action of firing a bow might seem easy, archery is both physically and mentally exhausting.
“The re-curve [bow] doesn’t have the pull cams that the compound has,” says Drew Ned, a senior computer information systems major and traveling team coach. “So, your full draw [of the bow] is mostly putting the weight on your back muscles. If you are going to shoot 144 arrows for a full day’s tournament, if you’re not constantly shooting, you burn out, you start dropping your arm, your form gets bad and your arrows go all over the place.”
To prepare for this, the team exercises regularly, doing endurance workouts and cross training to tone their muscles.
“If you’re having a bad day or something and you go shoot, if you’re tense, that will throw off your arrows,” Wilson says. “The slightest movement will throw you off, be it a few inches or a foot and all those points in between.”
This happened to Wilson at a competition this past year where she did what the archery community calls “robin hooding.” She shot one arrow and it hit and damaged another one of her arrows on the knock, which is the part that snaps into the bowstring.
“When I was aiming, I had a perfect line of sight. I let it go and because that knock was cracked it didn’t get released properly from the string and it flew off and I missed the whole target,” Wilson says. “Before that, mentally I was in control, once that happened, my focus and concentration was gone. It takes a lot to come back from something like that.”
The recent glorifying of archery in Hollywood is exciting for current members of the club, because it brings the possibility of a spike in student interest.
“That got us really excited for this year,” Wilson says. “We know there’s going to be a lot more people interested because of all the movies that were coming out and we couldn’t wait to get started with the meetings and everything. Hopefully, the interest stays.”
For some club members, it sometimes helps to pretend they are in one of those movies when they shoot.
“I’m guilty of being one of those people who once you’re behind the line, once [the bow] is in your hands you can’t help but feel a little bit of Katniss Everdeen in you or Hawkeye from The Avengers,” Valdez says. “It’s empowering, almost.”
The Archery Club currently meets at 6:30p.m. Thursday nights in the Walnut Room of the University Union. They are enthusiastically welcoming new members, and they guarantee students will have fun if they come check it out.
As Valdez says, “One shot and you’re hooked.”