Faith Oakley: One Arm Archery Girl

Doubt and fear: These feelings, unfortunately, are all too familiar when many people consider trying something new.

Some let the fear win, backing out without knowing what could’ve been. But those with faith leap anyway. Faith means trust without proof, and requires courage. That makes faith the perfect name for Faith Oakley.

“I was terrified to try and shoot archery, a sport with mostly able-bodied people shooting,” Oakley said. “But if I didn’t, I would not be half the person I am today.”

She was born with Erb-Duchenne palsy, a condition that prevents use of her right arm. So, when a summer camp counselor asked Oakley to try archery in fourth grade, she almost didn’t. She hesitated a split-second, but then trusted her faith and agreed. The counselor helped Oakley hold the bow and, to her surprise, she shot her first bull’s-eye. That was all she needed to fall in love.

“I did not ever see myself shooting archery,” Oakley said. “If I didn’t try it, a big part of myself and my personality would be lacking. I would not be the same person I am today, and I would not be nearly as successful. I have so many good things to say about archery.”

Oakley proves practice makes perfect bull’s-eyes. She plans to shoot at college, and she’s aiming even higher: She has her sights on the 2024 Paralympic Games in France. Photo Credit: The Seattle Times

Oakley joined her school’s archery team in fifth grade. She’s now a junior at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Kentucky, and one of the country’s best student archers. She competes against two-handed archers by using a mouth tab. Her mouth tab is a small piece of nylon that acts like a release. Oakley holds the bow with her left arm, and draws the string with the mouth tab clenched between her molars.

Drawing with a mouth tab sounds tough – and it is. “It takes the same amount of strength to pull back a bow with two hands as it does with your mouth,” Oakley said. Her hunting bow’s draw weight is around 40 pounds, but she wants to crank it up. To stay in shooting shape, Oakley works on her lower body and core strength to improve stability. She’s still trying to figure out how to improve her mouth strength, and she’s confident she’ll eventually find a way.

Oakley bowhunts and shoots competitively. In July 2017 she finished ninth at the National Archery in the Schools Program’s World Tournament in Orlando. And, like most competitive archers, Oakley trains daily.

“Archery is the only sport that I get an adrenaline kick from,” she said. “Because of the competitive level, and that focus and determination you have to have to be any good, archery is really intense. You have to put 100 percent of you into the sport.”

Oakley has been a cheerleader, and played soccer, track, volleyball and basketball, but archery stole her heart. “You don’t have to be the fastest runner, tallest or strongest,” she said. “You need a strong mind, and hard work and dedication. That’s also another special part of the sport: You don’t have to be blessed with good genes.”

Oakley proves practice makes perfect bull’s-eyes. She plans to shoot at college, and she’s aiming even higher: She has her sights on the 2024 Paralympic Games in France. Every arrow she shoots puts her one shot closer to her goal.

Faith Oakley’s faith in her abilities introduced her to archery. Now she’s returning the favor. She has already coached a couple of kids to shoot with a mouth tab, and she’s working to become a certified archery instructor so she can help even more. Photo Credit: The Seattle Times

She’s also making an impact on others. Her story inspires fellow archers and people struggling with physical limitations. Oakley enjoys being a role model, and appreciates the positive response she gets from the archery community when competing. “In my mind, seeing someone do something out of the ordinary makes you think, ‘If that person can do that, I can do anything,’” Oakley said.

She uses her unique platform to encourage others to try archery, especially those younger than her. “I would beg them to at least try it,” Oakley said.

Oakley encourages everyone to visit a local archery shop and try the sport. She says archery teaches patience, commitment and strength. “I’m all about impact and inspiring people, especially kids who are my age or even younger. If they’re able to see someone do something, and that inspires them to go out of the their comfort zone, I’m A-OK with that.”

Years ago, Faith Oakley’s faith in her abilities introduced her to archery. Now she’s returning the favor. She has already coached a couple of kids to shoot with a mouth tab, and she’s working to become a certified archery instructor so she can help even more.

But Faith Oakley’s bigger story is her broad impact on those around her. Every person hearing her story gets an opportunity to spread her message of faith. “If there’s something you want to do, no matter what obstacles you have, take that dream and run with it,” she said.

That’s a lesson in the meaning of faith, from Faith herself.

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2018: Indoor Season Wrap Up

The indoor archery season is underway, with four of the biggest tournaments complete. Fans enjoyed thrilling matches and fantastic displays of archery skill. Let’s review some of the indoor season’s most memorable moments so far.

Nimes

The Nimes recurve men’s match pitted the USA’s Brady Ellison, one of the sport’s biggest stars, against rising star Steve Wijler of the Netherlands. Wijler has enjoyed great success since his World Cup debut, and was the 2017 World Archery Athlete of the Year.

Wijler lived up to that title, besting Ellison 6-4 in the gold-medal match. Tough matches are a trend in the indoor World Cup circuit. “It’s getting to the point now that in recurve men you can’t miss,” Ellison told World Archery. “It’s a can’t-miss game, and it’s getting exciting.”

Other Winners:

Women’s Compound

Natalia Avdeeva, Russian Federation

Men’s Compound

Kristofer Schaff, USA

Women’s Recurve

Kim Surin, Korea

Lancaster Classic

The Lancaster Classic is unique because it features the barebow division on the big stage. This division’s popularity has exploded, with attendance more than doubling in one year, and the 2017 finals generating over 200,000 YouTube views.

Rich Barker was the low seed of the four finalists, and had to shoot through three barebow titans. His first opponent was Bobby Worthington, a soft-spoken Southern gentleman who finished second at last year’s Classic. Barker prevailed in an exciting back-and-forth battle.

Next up was Dewayne Martin, a multiple 3-D world champion. Barker was the clear underdog, but again edged his opponent. His final matchup pitted him against John Demmer, the country’s best barebow archer. Both archers displayed amazing accuracy, but Barker was on fire and defeated Demmer.

The women’s recurve gold-medal match featured USA Olympian Mackenzie Brown against Casey Kaufhold, a 13-year-old phenom from Pennsylvania. Kaufhold battled the more experienced Brown, trailing by 1 point with one end left. Kaufhold stumbled on her second arrow, which let Brown seal the victory with a 10.

Other Winners:

Men’s Recurve

Brady Ellison, USA

Women’s Compound

Sarah Prieels, Belgium

Men’s Compound

Paul Tedford, USA

Vegas Shoot

The Vegas Open Championship shoot-off is the indoor world’s main event, with a $52,000 grand prize. To reach this event archers must shoot perfect scores all three days of competition. The nine shooters on the line all carried impressive resumes. The shoot-off features a last-person-standing format. All the archers shoot, and those with the top scores keep shooting until one person remains perfect.

This year’s final two featured Canada’s Chris Perkins, a former world champion; and Michigan native Bob Eyler, a former professional archer that took a hiatus from archery. Despite Eyler not competing in the Vegas shoot for six-years, he showed no signs of rust. Both archers nailed the X-ring with their first two arrows. Perkins’ third arrow was mere millimeters low. Eyler needed to shoot a 10 to win the big check and prestige of Vegas champion. He drew, aimed and coolly shot the 10, causing the crowd to erupt in applause. Vegas always loves an underdog.

Other Winners:

Women’s Recurve

Lisa Unruh, Germany

Men’s Recurve

Steve Wijler, Netherlands

Women’s Compound

Alexis Ruiz, USA

World Cup Finals

The women’s compound gold-medal match featured Tanja Jensen, Denmark, against Alexandra Savenkova, Russian Federation. Jensen shot strong but was plagued by low hits on her third shots. Going into the final end, Savenkova had a 1-point lead. To have a chance to win, Jensen needed to shoot a perfect score, but her first two arrows narrowly missed the 10-ring. That left the door open for Savenkova, who continued her strong shooting to win.

Other Winners:

Men’s Compound

Jesse Broadwater, USA

Men’s Recurve

Han Jaeyeop, Korea

Women’s Recurve

Lisa Unruh, Germany

Upcoming Tournaments

The excitement isn’t over. Some of the best indoor action remains. The Indoor World Championship, USA Archery Indoor National Championship, and National Field Archery National Championship are all coming up. Stay tuned to BowJunky Media, World Archery and USA Archery for the events’ coverage.

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Athlete Profile: Meet Steve Anderson

“Archery is life.” For many, that’s just a saying. But for some, that saying defines them.

Steve Anderson, 29, is a self-taught archer who exploded into the professional ranks to become one of America’s top compound-bow archers. He makes a living shooting arrows and working for Easton Archery, so he works in archery even when he isn’t shooting. His wife, Linda Ochoa-Anderson, is also a professional archer.

Although archery now defines Anderson’s life, it began as just a fun way to spend time outdoors.

“At about 13 I wanted to get into hunting,” he said. “My father farmed, so he’s often busy during hunting season. I had the option to go hunting with my uncles, and they were bowhunters.”

Although Anderson had serious archery talent, that first big tournament was a learning experience. “I got my butt kicked, and wanted to get better after that point,” he said. Photo Courtesy of Steve Anderson

Anderson began bowhunting, and he shot 3-D tournaments to prepare for hunting season. Although he enjoyed archery, other sports took priority during high school. That changed when he reached college.

“I went to Idaho State to play hoops,” Anderson said. “I had a back injury there that limited my freshman season, and eventually ended my basketball career. In the meantime, I started shooting archery again with the intention to bowhunt.”

Anderson also started working at an archery shop, and bought a Hoyt target bow to begin competing. Soon after, a friend took Anderson to compete at the Western Classic Trail Shoot, which is commonly called “Redding.” It’s one of the country’s largest tournaments, and combines field archery and 3-D targets. The event features targets from .

Although Anderson had serious archery talent, that first big tournament was a learning experience. “I got my butt kicked, and wanted to get better after that point,” he said. “I think I placed 70th out of 100-something. I was introduced to what people can do with a bow, and what I needed to do to be competitive.”

Even though the tournament didn’t go well, Anderson liked competition. “I committed myself to learning how to execute good shots and properly activate a release,” Anderson said.

His commitment to improving paid off with a second-place finish at the next Redding event.  That learning process was full of peaks, including a podium finish, but Anderson often stumbled along the way. Photo Credit: World Archery

He didn’t have a traditional coach. Instead, several mentors in his community helped him with his form and bow tuning. Anderson also worked out many flaws himself through trial and error.

Problem-solving is an important skill for archers. “If I’m struggling in one area, I’ll go and figure out how to improve it,” Anderson said.

His commitment to improving paid off with a second-place finish at the next Redding event.  That learning process was full of peaks, including a podium finish, but Anderson often stumbled along the way.

“I go through struggles periodically,” Anderson said. “You just have to work through it. If you know it’s just a rough patch, and go back to the elementary aspects of shooting, you can build yourself back. Then one day you’ll have a great practice day, and your confidence will come back.”

One problem plaguing new and experienced archers alike is shooting one score in practice and a worse score in tournaments.

“You experience frustration at any point in your archery career,” Anderson said. “Early on, it was frustrating not to bring your practice scores to a tournament. I think everyone experiences that. If you can stay with it and work on the mental aspect of your shooting, you can overcome that and even shoot better scores in tournaments because you’re more focused.”

Anderson’s early career featured mostly 3-D and field-archery tournaments. He first tried target archery while working at Hoyt Archery when a co-worker took him to a large competition. He quickly took to the new discipline.

“In my first year, I had the chance to represent team USA in the World Games,” he said. “The next year I made the World Cup team, and have been on it ever since.”

The variety of targets and scenarios make field archery a challenging discipline. Photo Credit: World Archery

Although Anderson has enjoyed great success in target archery, his passion is field archery. The variety of targets and scenarios make field archery a challenging discipline. The competitors must shoot accurately, estimate distances precisely, and master uphill and downhill shots. His passion for this challenging discipline brought him to the World Field Championships in 2016, where he won gold.

“World field is the pinnacle of archery events, in terms of skill,” Anderson said. “In field archery, you have to have all aspects of your game working right.”

Arguably the top moment in 2017 came at Redding, where Anderson’s tournament career began. In 2015 and 2016, he tied for first place there, but finished second and third after the shoot-off.

In 2017, he again competed in a shoot-off with two of the world’s best archers. “The target is at 88 yards, and you have a few hundred people behind you, with a little wind blowing left to right,” Anderson said.

The target that decided the winner was an elk with an orange spot 5½ inches across. “All three of us drew back,” he said. “Stephan (Hansen) and Kyle (Douglas) shot pretty quickly and missed the dot. I let down and turned to my buddy. Paul Tedford. He said, ‘If you hit the dot, you win.’ I had a little heartbeat going and was shaking a little bit.”

 

Like Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers, Anderson called the arrow a hit before it reached the target. The crowd erupted in cheers as he won the tournament that launched his competitive career.

Do you want to shoot like Steve Anderson? Start your journey at an archery shop, where you’ll find the gear and expert advice you need to start shooting. Find a nearby archery shop here.

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5 Schools That Are Killing The College Archery Game

Your three-person team has 60 seconds to shoot six arrows. You step to the line and fire two arrows while your teammates cheer. When your last shot hits the target, you get off the line as a teammate takes your place, a carefully choreographed move. It’s a heart-pounding 60 seconds where three individuals shoot as a single cohesive unit.

Archery is usually an individual sport, but collegiate archery is different. While there is an individual competition, the team rounds and team atmosphere are unique to collegiate archery, which hosts a proud tradition of competition and school spirit.

If you’re planning your college career, archery can improve your experience and create lasting memories and friendships. As you’re filling out college applications, take a look at the many excellent college archery programs. To make your job easier, here’s the dean’s list of top archery schools.

James Madison University

JMU has produced national champions, world champions and Olympic medalists. Head coach Andy Pucket won the 2017 Collegiate Archery Program National Head award. Photo Credit: USA Archery

Tucked away in Virginia’s Shenandoah valley James Madison University’s (JMU) campus is lined with local blue stone and picturesque buildings. One of the best-kept secrets on campus is its world-class practice facilities and winning archery program. The school hosts a large indoor and dedicated 70-meter outdoor practice range. With these excellent facilities, the student-athletes train into champion form. JMU has produced national champions, world champions and Olympic medalists. Head coach Andy Pucket won the 2017 Collegiate Archery Program National Head award.

Texas A&M

Texas A&M is now a 19 time National Championship team. To win the title, a school has to have their recurve, compound, bowhunter, and barebow teams medal in the team rounds. Any high combination of placements within those categories adds points towards winning the title. Photo Credit: Texas A&M Archery Team

If there’s one team to beat in collegiate archery, it’s Texas A&M University. The team’s trophy case is packed full of championships, and many legendary archers have worn the Aggies’ maroon jersey. Olympic medalist and collegiate national champion Terry Wunderle is one notable Aggie. This storied program has indoor and outdoor ranges so the Aggie archers can continue their winning tradition. At the 2017 National Outdoor Collegiate Championship, Texas A&M won the overall team title for the 19th time.

Columbia University

The archers on the women’s varsity teams certainly get their practice because they won gold in the recurve and compound division at the 2017 NOCC. Photo Credit: USA Archery

You wouldn’t expect New York City to be the home of a dominant archery team but luckily, Columbia University has several urban archery ranges in the area. The archers on the women’s varsity teams certainly get their practice because they won gold in the recurve and compound division at the 2017 National Outdoor Collegiate Championships (NOCC). Contact coach Derek Davis for more information on the Columbia archery team.

Michigan State

The Spartans practice at a world-class training facility, the Demmer Center, which has 3-D, field, indoor and outdoor ranges. Photo Credit: USA Archery

Michigan State is home to an impressive archery team and even offers scholarships for archers. The Spartans practice at a world-class training facility, the Demmer Center, which has 3-D, field, indoor and outdoor ranges. All-Americans and champion archers have walked the Michigan State campus including its 2017 men’s compound team who won the 2017 NOCC men’s compound title in a thrilling fashion. Michigan State was in a shoot-off with Northern Arizona University who posted an impressive three arrow score of 29 points, one point from perfect. But Michigan State were destined to be the champions, the Spartan team answered with a perfect score to bring home the title.

Emmanuel College

At the 2017 NOCC, they edged out JMU and finished second in the overall team standings, just behind Texas A&M. Emanuel College is a varsity archery program that offers scholarships for promising archers. Photo Credit: USA Archery

Emmanuel is a relative newcomer to the collegiate archery world, but the school is taking on the established powerhouses. At the 2017 NOCC, it edged out JMU and finished second in the overall team standings, just behind Texas A&M. Emmanuel College is a varsity archery program offering scholarships for promising archers. The program is led by head coach Rodney Estrada and offers 3-D, indoor and outdoor archery facilities.

Collegiate archery is growing with new programs added each year. For the current list of archery schools and more information on collegiate archery visit the USA Archery website.

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Girl on Fire: Kaufhold Makes International Debut at World Championships

It’s 5,147 air miles from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Rosario, Argentina. That’s a long journey for anyone, but Casey Kaufhold is just plain excited.

She’s going to shoot at the World Archery Youth Championships.

Archery is clearly in Casey’s blood. Her parents, Rob and Carole, own Lancaster Archery Supply, and her family has a long history in tournament archery. Rob was a collegiate standout and national champion, and Casey’s brother, Conner, is ranked sixth in the United States.

But this is Casey’s story, and this week the country’s No. 1-ranked cadet archer is preparing for her first World Championships event.

Casey’s got a quick smile, lots of humility – and a fierce game face. Don’t be fooled by her youth or enthusiasm. This kid comes to play.

Add academics to the mix – she’s an A student – and it gets more challenging. But Casey’s just 14, at least a year younger than the youngest competitors in her division, and outshooting the rest of the country. It’s almost tough to comprehend. Photo Credit: Rob Kaufold

In Rosario, Casey will face archers from around the world, including formidable opponents from South Korea, where archers are groomed to become the best on Earth. Argentina brings Casey much closer to her ultimate goal: an Olympic medal. Cadet archers who compete in Rosario might just meet again at Tokyo 2020.

“Cadet” is the division for 15- to 17-year-old archers, and it’s considered one of the country’s toughest. Go to any USA Archery national tournament, and you’ll see scores in this division are often as close as the adult standings. The competition is incredibly fierce, and excellence demands a serious work ethic.

Add academics to the mix – Casey is an “A” student – and it gets more challenging. But Casey’s just 14, at least a year younger than the division’s next-youngest competitors, and yet she’s outshooting the rest of the country. It’s almost tough to comprehend.

“It’s a little difficult, but I get it done,” Casey said. “I go to school until 3:30, then finish homework, practice as much as possible, and eat. It’s definitely difficult, but I can make it work.”

Casey was 8 when she started shooting a recurve bow – the kind with elongated, curved limbs used in the Olympics – but she was a toddler when she flung her first arrows from a homemade bow. Despite shooting hundreds of thousands of arrows annually in practice, Casey’s love for archery hasn’t diminished. It’s grown exponentially.

“I feel more excited about everything with every single tournament,” she said. “The passion never seems to go away. I just get more pumped up every day.”

That passion for archery will sustain her through the world’s toughest competition for her age bracket, beginning Oct. 2. Casey will begin the event by shooting a 72-arrow “ranking round,” in which archers are ranked by total score on a target 60 meters away.

Hitting the 10 – a perfect score, in the target’s center – is the equivalent of hitting a large apple from more than half a football field away. For context, Casey scored a 630 out of a possible 720 during her first day at the recent national championships. Those are some serious shooting chops.

After the ranking round, she’ll face her competitors in an elimination round modeled after the Olympics. It’s head to head match play, with the winner advancing and the loser leaving the competition. The tournament also has team and mixed-gender team eliminations, but Casey’s participation will depend on how the team competes as a whole.

“Casey is a beast,” Rob Kaufhold told Lancaster Online earlier this year. “She is very strong. Competitive archery is a lot like skating or gymnastics. Mentally, it has a lot of parallels to golf.”

To train for Argentina, Casey has been doing more of what works for her. “Just shooting a lot, more at blank bales to make sure you know and feel your shot,” she explained, referring to a blank foam target with no bull’s-eye. Archers use this technique to focus more on the feeling of the shot than the result. “Then, I take it outside to see how it scores or groups. I’m shooting a lot more arrows each day to create endurance.”

Casey Kaufold

In setting her sights on Rosario, Casey looks forward to seeing new cities, and how different or similar Argentina is to her home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She’s excited to see old friends, and make new ones on the field. Photo Credit: USA Archery

At her age, it’s incredible enough that Casey holds national records and titles, but to make the “world team,” as it’s known among archers, is one of her greatest achievements. “It was very exciting and different because I have never been on a USA or world team before,” she said of the Team Trials. During that event, she had to shoot a high ranking round score, and win head-to-head matches to earn one of the team’s three coveted spots. “It’s a cool experience to know you will compete for your country.”

In setting her sights on Rosario, Casey looks forward to visiting new cities, and seeing how different or similar Argentina is to Pennsylvania. She’s excited to see old friends, and make new ones on the field.

Rob and Carole will accompany her, while Conner will lead her cheering squad from home.

In fact, Casey’s brother has been a critical part of her training team. “We shoot together a lot and we have shoot-offs in the yard,” Casey said of Conner. “We’re always competing. You lose, you don’t get to go fishing. … We make silly bets to make us more motivated to win.

As for Casey’s ultimate motivation, it’s still an Olympic medal. Rosario is a major milestone in that journey, but she’s prepared for the long road ahead.

“It takes a lot of hard work,” she said. “It doesn’t just come. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it always pays off.”

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