Although Archer does not have an archery program (though the name would be so fitting), the school has its own champion archer. Katie Hershey-Van Horn ’14 puts in hours of practice to prepare for competitions and is a member of the Junior Olympic team.
Her hard work and talent earned her the number one spot in the state. The Oracle interviewed Katie about her experiences, challenges and successes with the sport. With many victories under her belt and many more to come, Katie shares her story with the Archer community.
ORACLE: How did you start doing archery? When did you begin? What captured your interest in such a unique sport?
KHVH: I started in about sixth grade when my parents bought me a cheap little fiber glass bow to play around with (because I was obsessed with Legolas)–I had no idea what I was doing. I even strung it backwards! Then, I went to Rancho Park and took the beginner class in 2010.
ORACLE: Do you do archery with a club or group? What is the archery community like?
KHVH: I stayed at Rancho for a year or so before I was recruited to join the Easton JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) team in Van Nuys. The community is great, but also very competitive. It’s similar to equestrian–it’s an individual yet also team sport.
ORACLE: What are typical practices and competitions like? What type of physical preparation goes into the sport?
KHVH: Practices are usually three to four hours every day after school (for me, at least). We start off like any other sport–with warm ups. Lots of stretching (sometimes running/cardio for our breathing) and strengthening exercises before we shoot ‘blank-bale’. Blank bale is where you shoot without a target (on the foam mat, of course) so that you don’t focus on aiming but rather form. Form is the most important thing–it’s what makes your shot. If you have bad form, you get bad scores.
And you carry that over with you to competition. During competition, I focus on nothing but form. I sit alone and talk to no one because I know that if I stay focused–half of the sport is mental game–I will shoot good scores. If I stay in my form, I will have a clean shot and get my arrow to the gold.
There are two types of competition: indoors and outdoors. I have more experience indoors and am currently working on outdoors. Indoors is a set distance (18m) with a 40cm target. Outdoors is a different story–depending on your division, you shoot multiple distances. For me, its 40m, 50m, 60m, and 70m (Olympic distance).
The typical indoor competition is either a 1200 or 300. Twelve-hundreds are shot over 2 days–2 300′s a day. A 300 consists of 10 ends (or rounds) with 3 arrows each that must be shot within 2 minutes. It’s called a 300 for the highest amount of points you can get is 300. For a 1200, you shoot a 300 in the morning, another in the afternoon and then carry on till the next day, etc.
It’s very complicated! There’s a lot more I haven’t mentioned.
ORACLE: What makes your sport different from others, especially those offered at Archer?
KHVH: Archery is hard. It’s both physically and mentally demanding. It requires you to stay calm and focus. Unlike soccer, where you have to watch and see where the ball’s going, you’re forced to focus on yourself and what you’re doing and where you’re sending the arrow.
ORACLE: Although you seem to be the champion of all things arrow, what challenges have you faced in archery?
KHVH: Ha! I wouldn’t say champion, exactly. Just # 1 in the State of California and 14 in the country for indoor! I’m faced with a lot of things. I have very little experience outdoor, so I’m struggling there (my arrows don’t even hit the target all the time!). I’m also trying to pull a heavier bow (so my arrows will reach!) and learning how to work with the wind–learning how to use it to your advantage so it’ll blow your arrows into the center rather than the 1 ring.
ORACLE: Of your entire archery career, what moment(s) stand out to you as ones of immense pride or personal growth?
KHVH: The moment I won first place was the biggest for me, so far. Because I honestly didn’t think I was going to win. I had just moved up a division (from Cadet to Junior) so I was faced with much harder competition. I’m competing with girls in JDT (Junior Dream Team)! It felt really good to win by 50 points, I have to admit.
ORACLE: What would you like the Archer community to know about archery?
KHVH: It’s hard! It requires an incredible amount of focus and yes, strength (You don’t have to be strong, necessarily. You’ll be able to work up the strength, so don’t be discouraged). Mental game is huge–if you’re off your game or get distracted, you will do very poorly. You can’t just pull the bow back while thinking about Coachella and hit the 10 ring. Also, you can’t learn the form overnight. Archery is all about proper form. Unfortunately, Hawkeye does not have good form (not even for a traditional archer), so don’t mimic him. The form works with your bone structure so that you don’t injure yourself–there’s a reason for it!
ORACLE: Do you think there is potential to bring archery into the Archer community? If so, besides being a perfect example of satisfyingly accurate nomenclature, what would it add to Archer Athletics?
KHVH:Mental game, especially. It will greatly strengthen students in learning how to focus and reflect on themselves. It will also help with test taking! You laugh, but this is true!
As I said earlier, you’re timed when you shoot so you have to learn how to pace yourself. It’s trained me how to get in a good ‘zone’ so that I can shoot and test better. It helps with math, too–all that scoring! Also, it’s just a lot of fun!
All photos courtesy of Katie Hershey-Van Horn.