Starting at a fairly young age, 20-year-old Mackenzie Brown of Tyler, Texas, found a way to turn her competitive fire into success. Brown actually began as a swimmer, competing in swim meets at a young age. Through a program at her middle school called NASP, or the National Archery in Schools Program, she discovered archery. (NASP was first launched about 14 years ago, and is now a national program that gives thousands of children and teens throughout the country their first experience with a bow and arrow.)
Once Mackenzie had a bow in her hands, as they say, it was all over. “It was pretty much downhill from there,” Mackenzie said, describing how her increasing love for the sport, as well as her skills, quickly grew from frequent practice. In 2005, in her first year of school competition, Mackenzie finished first in her division for her age group.
The competitive athlete in Mackenzie instantly knew she had found a new love. She continued to compete locally and regionally, and after starting out with a compound bow, eventually transitioned to a recurve. Her early success began to foster Olympic dreams for the then-teenager, who now saw archery, and not the pool, as her route to a medal stand. The competitor in her wanted to compete at the very highest level, no matter what sport she was participating in, she explained. But she also found a passion in archery.
While swimming was fun, archery became something much more involved for Mackenzie, who thrives on the competition. One of her favorite parts of archery competitions are the later, one-on-one rounds of the tournaments she’s in, versus the open brackets where they might be less pressure on the athlete. “I was always a competitor at whatever I chose to do,” Mackenzie said. “My strong suit is in match play,” Mackenzie said. “I think it’s a little bit more psychological — it’s almost two different games,” she said, comparing the two different stages of competition. “When I’m right there with a competitor, it’s game on.”
She always wanted to compete with the best of the best, she said. “I already had that (Olympic) goal with swimming — so I just kind of transferred it over to archery,” Mackenzie said, as she prepared her bows for a practice round in Poland, where she was awaiting competition in the World Cup this week.
After her continued success at the regional level as a middle-schooler, Mackenzie earned a tryout, and then an invitation to the Junior Dream Team camps for up-and-coming archers in 2008 when she was 13. For Mackenzie, it was a preview of the full-time Olympic athlete’s life. And a few years later, she was living at the Olympic training center in Chula Vista as a resident athlete, where she still lives and trains full time.
Since moving out to California, she’s been a member of the U.S. National Team several times, and earned gold at numerous events, including the 2013 Costa Rica Cup and the 2014 Arizona Cup, and earned silver at the World Archery Youth Championships.
The coaching at Chula Vista has been and continues to be an invaluable experience for Mackenzie, she said, because it’s teaching her a lot about her form and process. “That was something that really helped me through my development as far as going through our form and process that Coach (Kisik) Lee has provided.” The lessons, practices and coaching have paid off for the Texan who calls the mild beach climate of Chula Vista “paradise” weather.
She’s quickly come into her own as an international competitor, and featured on a worldwide list of “Archers You Need to Watch” in early 2014 by Archery 360. It seems to be proving true for 2015 and probably 2016, as well.
Brown has set specific and broader Olympic goals for herself, as one season winds down, and another starts shortly thereafter. After her international competition in Poland this week, she’ll be off to Medellin, Columbia, for more competition. The next season begins later this summer at her native Texas as a College Station competition. And while she continues to compete, she’s preparing in Chula Vista for the next big goal, a chance at success at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.