EASTON FOUNDATION IN THE NEWS

Top Ranked Compound Bow Archer Sets Sights On Recurve For 2020 Olympics

By: Perry Smith

Crystal Gauvin had a successful career she enjoyed as a senior economist, and then she discovered archery.

Her story contains a combination of factors—parts dedication, drive, passion, planning, practice, and sacrifice—as her voyage to the No. 2 ranked archer in the world (No. 1 in the United States), includes her forgoing the steady career, for a shot at being right where she stands today. And when she reached the top of the compound bow world, she changed again.

Crystal received her first compound bow as a Christmas present in 2012, but even that’s a bit of an unusual start for a world class competitor. At first, her family and friends discouraged the choice, and pushed her toward the recurve bow. “They wouldn’t let me shoot with a compound bow,” she recalled. “Here in New England, because of (five-time Olympian) Butch Johnson, it was all recurve, recurve, recurve. Nobody shoots compound.”

She made a bet with her husband and some of her friends from the local archery range—if she entered a local competition and won, she could shoot all the compound bow she desired. Using an old hunting bow sans the stabilizer and target sights commonplace in competitions, she took first. In fact, she won by about 100 points.

The family’s hesitation was understandable. Hailing from the Northeast, a region that produced Olympians and renowned coaches, including Butch Johnson, Roxanne Reimann and Karen Scavotto among others, considered to be among the best in recurve, Gauvin’s choice is all the more unique. Most archers in the area shoot with a recurve, which Gauvin attributed to a few factors, namely the large shadows cast by the success of the aforementioned greats. But her family became staunch supporters, and with her yuletide gift of a target bow, she was ready. Or so she thought.  “And I kind of just took off, from there,” she said, “and got my butt handed to me at the Lancaster Classic.”

Her first “real” tournament—the Pennsylvania competition in late January 2013 that, over the last quarter-century, brings together some of the best archers in the world—gave her an education in how much she had to learn, she said. For example, her finishing out of the top-16 for the first time ended up being a blessing in disguise—she hadn’t brought enough arrows to compete had she made the cut. “Make sure you read the rules for every archery tournament,” she said, sharing the lesson that the experience taught her. “Every tournament can have a different format.”

The loss became a turning point for her. The early elimination kindled her competitive nature.

She was shooting alongside some of the nation’s best, and started to soak up all she could: the importance of knowing how to fix problems with your equipment, the need for consistent training, and so on. By the end of the year, she set her sights on making the national team in 2014. After the first year, she ended up on the podium at more than two-thirds of her tournaments in 2014, and then the following year, she earned a spot on the U.S. World Cup team.

“There’s definitely a big learning curve,” she said, noting things like the first time she shot outdoors, for the Arizona Cup, early in the season, and how wind could affect her shot.

All of this and others were teaching moments that she still takes with her, and shares with the athletes she coaches.

Despite her success, the industry and Olympic opportunity with the recurve bow recently pushed her to pick up the more traditional competition bow, and she’s now set her sights, so to speak, on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. This year, her goal is a learning year, albeit one with aggressive goals, as she gets the hang of recurve.

For the athlete who was essentially oblivious to international archery competition until the London Olympics—she said she trained under Butch Johnson for months before discovering his Olympic past—Gauvin is now clearly in the same league as archery’s best. And while she knows the leap from competitive to elite is difficult, it would probably be unwise to bet against her at this point.  “Ultimately, the primary goal is to learn as much as I can so I can be 100 percent ready to be competitive for next year,” she said.

Featured Athlete – Paul Tedford

By Perry Smith

Paul Tedford3Paul Tedford was never really into traditional team sports, per se. But he remembers his interest being piqued in the bow and arrow after his mom took him to a shop in their central Montana hometown.

It was the summer of his fifth grade, and he and his four brothers were looking for an outlet.

“We were in need of something to do that summer,” the 26-year-old Great Falls resident said. “Our Mom took us down to the archery shop, and we were interested. We got set up and started shooting right away.”

By about a year later, Tedford, who’s now competing for one of only four spots on the U.S. Archery Men’s Compound Team, was entering into state tournaments. Tedford loved archery, but also the competitive aspect, trying to best someone on the range, was a thrill for him.

“Just the fact of trying to win something from somebody better than me — that was an experience for me,” he said. “From that day on, I just thought the competition side of archery was really cool, and I wanted to learn more about it.”

He fondly recalls that first tournament with a laugh, an experience he says he “totally bombed.” He was having equipment issues he didn’t even know about. He was completely nervous. But it was still a fun learning experience. “My whole arrow rest came loose, and I didn’t even notice until the end,” he said. “It was kinda funny.”

Paul TedfordOver the last 15 years, his skills have improved and his nerves have calmed some, but he felt like he didn’t hit a breakthrough moment for his archery career until this past season, when he was competing in the U.S. Open. He ended up in second, but he competed against his traveling companion and friend, Tate Morgan, who also hails from Central Montana. The experience of knowing he qualified for a guaranteed medal spot for the first time was one he will not soon forget, he said. “Basically, it just gives you the confidence to know that now you’re one of the top guys,” Tedford said. “That podium in Alabama for the U.S. Open really was a massive boost in my confidence, just to know that I can compete with those guys and that I belong up there with them.”

There have been two other more recent adjustments to his technique and strategy that have made a big difference, he said. One was switching to the lighter Easton arrows, which has helped his score, and the other is two supplements he created — Provision and Profocus — which are supplements he engineered with the help of a manufacturer, and he now sells them online, as well. His new part-time supplement business keeps him busy when he’s not shooting professionally, he said.

“I take it every day, the vitamin for your eyes is just good in general, and the focus one I take every day just to help with my practice,” he said. “What really brought it out is for a lot of years I would look for something that would help me cut down on my nerves — everyone gets nervous,” he said.

As far as upcoming goals, making the US Compound squad, and at his final tournament of the season in Ohio at the end of the month, he’d like to pick up his first gold this season.

“I’d like to win a USA Archery event, and this one coming up in Ohio is my last chance, he said. “In the U.S. Open I came in second, which was great,” he said, “but I’d still like to take first.”

Featured Athlete: Page (Pearce) Gore – Multi-time World Archery Youth Championships Gold Medalist

Paige Gore4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most accomplished athletes in every sport usually share a common trait, a drive. The enjoyment of competition is a must, that’s a given. But the truly successful seem to be able to turn that into something they thrive on when it comes to the athletic task at hand.

For Paige Gore, a 21-year-old Red Bluff, Calif., native and inarguably one of the most accomplished compound archers in the world, she discovered that talent, and archery, at a young age — a really young age — and learned how to use that drive to win and be successful at a myriad of goals.

She said she first picked up the bow and arrow at age 18 months, as soon as she was barely old enough to hold it. Following her parents, Kevin and Stacy Pearce, around at archery competitions that they both took part in professionally, she learned early about the excitement of the sport, and also how to shoot.

“That’s just what they did, they still do,” Paige said of her parents’ weekend road trips for various archery tournaments throughout California, Nevada and Oregon and parts beyond for NFAA competitions. ”They were going to tournaments and they had us with them, my brother and I, and as soon we could, they had a bow in our hands — I have pictures,” she says with a laugh.

Both Paige and her brother, who prefers archery hunting over tournaments in their rural Northern California hometown, joined their parents in competing at the tournaments. Paige quickly emerged as a phenom at a record-breaking pace. After winning about every tournament in which she competed and setting her first state record at age 10, she was hooked. It began a years-long spree of breaking local, state and national archery records.

“I didn’t even know (about) the record. I got the letter in the mail, and I thought, ‘Wow that’s really cool. What’s that?’” Paige recalled. “That’s how we found U.S. Archery.” After putting the national organization on her radar, she also set about, with her mom’s help, looking up where records existed for her sport, and then smashing them. (The most recent tally is 115 state, national and world records.)

Newly married - Paige and Dave Gore
Newly married – Paige and Dave Gore

At age 12, and in a time when athletes begin focused, competitive training younger and younger, Paige was still surprised by the numerous offers to join from Junior Olympic Archery Development clubs. She eventually found the nearby Nevada County Gold Archery Team, which let her compete with friends on the circuit she was familiar with, as well as participate in the larger national tournaments for which she could now qualify. She even met the man she eventually married this April, Dave Gore.

Almost always shooting age groups ahead, Paige went on to qualify for her first Junior National Archery Team spot at age 13, the youngest ever to do so, and earned her first individual gold medal by age 14. Within a couple of years, she was competing for the National Team. And while many archers trained for hours shooting by themselves or with a coach, Paige said having others around for a battle of the best scores was what she needed as a motivation to train. Even her musical accomplishments were rooted in contest, with her instrument of choice being the competitive fiddle.

“I’m so driven by the competition,” she said, describing her mentality in tournaments. “If there’s other people there then my drive is there and my focus is there.” When she was a kid at home, using the prospect of having to do chores as a motivation to keep practicing didn’t work for her, she said. She loved archery, but she also really enjoyed the competition, knowing that others are out there trying to best her score. “Usually, the more pressure that’s applied, the higher my score would be,” she said.

Paige also never let the competitions interfere with an impressive work/education resume she’s already compiled. She’s currently finishing her third post-high school degree (business) at Chico State. (In addition to finishing high school in less than three years, which she did while simultaneously earning her associate’s degree in criminal justice, she was accepted into law school at 19. She decided not to pursue this after she and several students had issues with administration at the law school after her first year.) She also has an associate’s degree in business, and while competing in tournaments in far-flung places like Turkey and Poland, she also found time to become a licensed insurance agent, in addition to being able to talk torts and writs like a paralegal. She also works part-time at the Sportsman’s Warehouse to supplement her tournament winnings.

She sees professional archery competitions as her career, although she acknowledged the cash payout discrepancy for men and women in tournament winnings — often 3-to-1 or higher, makes frequent travel a necessity, as well as the patience and cooperation of her husband.

Paige Gore3She loves that she can share archery with him, she said, and he understands the demands of the schedule, as well as her competitive streak. The drive in Paige extends beyond the range, and she jokes about when she calls out “first;” after finishing  the folding of her laundry pile — and Dave will look over, unaware of the competition, she says with a laugh. “I’m sure every pro will understand,” she said. “It’s really difficult to balance what we do with a ‘normal life.’” Dave’s experience in archery makes him a great training partner, she said, but it’s more than that. “He actually knows the industry, and he knows what tournaments are big and which ones we need to go to. He shoots at my level, which is great because we push each other to be better. It’s nice because I can share it with someone who understands.”

In 2016, the drive continues to take her around the globe for competition, and the higher the stakes, the more she enjoys the competition. It’s a quality that helped her earn NFAA Field Nationals and NFAA Shooter of the Year in 2015, and why those are realistic goals for 2016, as well.

 

By Perry Smith

Collin Klimitchek Sets his Sights on Rio 2016

By Perry Smith

Wroclaw, Poland. Copenhagen, Denmark. Medellin, Colombia. The Yucatan Peninsula, and even Australia. Collin Klimitchek said archery has taken the teenager all over the globe for tournament competition, but there’s still one more place he’s looking to compete in — at the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

Collin KlimitchekWith his four-year-long Olympic goals now less than eight months away, Collin said he’s currently refocused himself in an attempt to make one last run at one of the few coveted spots on the U.S. National Team. “Right now, my goal is to make the Olympic team,” Collin said, noting in early January that he “has a long way to catch up.” After recovering from a lower back injury, Collin said he “got into his own head” in competition in parts of last year, and this year, he’s “redoubling his efforts.” Its working so far, with Collin ranked No. 3 for the Men’s Recurve Bow nationally, according to the U.S. National Team website.

A natural outdoorsman in his hometown of Mission Valley, Texas, the 19-year-old Klimitchek took to archery at a young age, following his dad’s footsteps. “When I turned 5, he popped the idea into my head,” Collin said of his dad’s influence. “It was a lot of fun, and I just kind of stuck with it.” Starting with archery in the local 4-H club, he steadily practiced and improved, winning local tournaments in his native Victoria County in South Texas. By the time he was a teenager, 14-year-old Klimitchek had earned a tryout and a spot on an elite squad known as the Junior Dream Team for archers, a program run by U.S. National Team Archery Head Coach Kisik Lee. Two years later, Collin was given another opportunity to train under Lee, as a Resident Athlete in Chula Vista for the Team USA archery training program.

Collin KlimitchekDescribed as quiet in interviews — and the up-and-coming archer has already garnered attention from numerous outlets, featured in stories such as “10 Things Every Archer Should Know” — the determined competitor saw the opportunity to train with the best in the country as a turning point in his young career.

Despite his love of archery, Klimitchek, who also enjoys baseball and basketball in addition to a slew of other outdoor activities, said he questioned whether he was making the right choice with the sacrifices involved in dedicating himself to becoming one of the nation’s best archers: the training regimen and tournament schedule he enjoyed somewhat limited his ability to take part in normal 16-year-old activities. While he missed out the occasional ATV trip on 4-wheelers in the country surrounding his hometown, the chance to compete around the world and represent his country was a tremendous honor for Collin, and an opportunity he knew he couldn’t refuse.
“When I got that opportunity, I knew I had to try (to make the National Team),” Collin said. “That was a turning point. It started as, ‘This is just kind of my last chance.’”
Collin is working to make the most of the chance, while globetrotting for tournaments and gaining a multicultural education from his travels that’s probably unrivaled by any world-studies lesson plan. “(In 2015) alone, I’ve probably spent close to 100 days out of the country,” Collin said. He also noted that the travel has its ups and downs because, at 6-feet, 2-inches tall, he’s not a big fan of the space confines in plane travel on international flights. But he doesn’t seem to carry any regrets about his decision. “It’s something I never had the opportunity to do before, and it’s given me a new appreciation,” he said, of other visiting other countries, and even more so, his own, he added. “Because I haven’t seen any country better than America,” he said.

Klimitchek said regardless of whether he reaches his dreams of the Olympic podium, he’d still pursue an opportunity to compete in the next World Championships, but after that, he’s ready for his next adventure. An avid hunter who also likes to spearfish and shoot, Klimitchek said he’d like to join one of the armed services after he hangs up his bow and arrow, with his goal making another elite team — the special forces…

On Target Olympic Archery Hopefuls Given Boost by New State-of-the-Art Training Center

By: Phillip Brents
Living East

Chula Vista native Lauren Clamon first picked up a bow at an archery booth at the San Diego County Fair when she was 11.  In less than three years, she was a national champion and now, as a resident-athlete at the Chula Vista United States Olympic Training Center, has already competed at several international events.   Read more….

Mackenzie Brown – a Natural Competitor

Mackenzie Brown3Starting 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.)

Mackenzie Brown
Mackenzie Brown

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.

 

“Where Next?”

By Perry Smith

The words on the top right-hand side of the Junior Pro Talk website say it all.

“Where next?”

At 17, Hartland High senior Chris Bee has already shot competitively on three different continents. Next year, he has his sights set on collegiate competition. And the future is pretty boundless for the up-and-coming archer who’s already part of a multimedia resource for his future competition.

His project with his sister Emily, who he’s following to Michigan State, and friends Jonathan Clark, Will Raper and Roy Green, who also shoot competitively, are using their experience and passion for archery to inform and entertain other archers with Junior Pro Talk.

Chris and Emily Bee
Chris and Emily Bee

“Juniorprotalk.com is an online source for all young archers to stay connected in the junior archery world” according to the website. With a burgeoning video library that offers everything from tournament results and updates to interviews with other competitors and pros, the website is gaining exposure among the archery crowd and they’re already getting noticed. When Chris and Emily playfully struck a pose of their competitive form at the Archery Trade Association convention in January — “air bows” drawn back in front of a USA Explore Archery poster.  USA Archery posted the picture and received more than 1,100 “likes” on the organization’s Facebook page, which is using a different picture of Emily for its cover photo.

In the videos, the archers talk about their experiences in some of the various tournaments they compete in, as well as interviewing other archers. In one podcast, Chris and Emily are in Wisconsin for a tournament, while Roy and Will take part in George Ryals ALC archery camp, describing their experiences and offering advice for archers. “Junior pro talk (media group) was created in a hotel room in the summer of 2014 strictly for following the young up-and-coming archers,” said Emily Bee. “Archers that have the potential to become the future pros.” The five of them all take turns filming, interviewing and taking pictures, she added. There’s no shortage of competitions and events, since the group shoots year-round.

“In the busy months, we could have a tournament every weekend,” she said.  Chris, who’s been shooting arrows since age 6, starting on practice targets in the family’s backyard with his Dad Chris, seems to enjoy the shooting itself as much as the competition. He’s been taking part in statewide and regional competitions since about that age, as well. But it’s definitely a year-round sport for Emily and Chris, who, not surprisingly, do have some similarities in their styles, since they both had similar coaches in their young careers. “We both shoot a compound, we both shoot the same bow,” Chris said. “In the summertime, we have an outdoor range set up in the backyard, and when outdoor season is over, we’re ready for indoor — and when indoor season is over, we’re ready for outdoor.” It’s not uncommon for Chris and Emily to shoot a couple hundred arrows each day in the summer, he said.

Chris Bee
Chris Bee

The only off-season I can really put down on paper is around October and November, he said, quickly adding, “that’s when I put down my compound bow and I pick up my recurve.” Chris Bee enjoys all types of shooting though, evidenced in his off-season plans. “I’d rather be sitting in a tree stand on the weekend,” he said, referring to a hunting perch. “Hunting and competition archery both share an adrenaline rush and the dedication,” he said.

But at the same time, like most people his age, he’s not sure exactly where his archery plans will take him just yet, only that he’s pretty sure it’ll stay a part of his life after Michigan State. “With support from my family, coach and sponsors, I will surely be shooting for the rest of my life,” he states on his Junior Pro Talk website profile. “I want to continue shooting for sure, I’m not exactly sure where it’s going to lead me — if I’m going to pursue it as a pro, or shoot for fun and work in the archery industry — I haven’t thought it through but I’m going to look at that.”

Which, of course, will eventually beg the question: Where next?

For updates on Chris Bee, his sister Emily, and their friends Roy Green, Will Raper and Jonathan Clark, and to find out what the up-and-coming archers are up to, you can visit juniorprotalk.com.

Zach Garrett finds his Love of Archery at a Young Age

By Perry Smith

 

Like many of his peers vying for a spot on the U.S. National Archery team, Zach Garrett found his love of archery at a young age. By the time he graduated from tiny Wellington Napoleon High School in Wellington, Missouri, he was well on his way. For Garrett, the decision was influenced by a lack of distractions in the tiny Lafayette County town he grew up in with a population of 812. “I’ve always told people,” he joked about his “very, very rural” hometown, “there’s nothing to do out here but get good at a sport.” And sure enough, he’s done that, joining a pair of gymnasts as famous athletic alumni from his Midwestern hometown.

 

A First Place Finish at the Texas Shootout in September
A First Place Finish at the Texas Shootout in September

“There’s absolutely nothing to do in the area, so you might as well do something productive” was Garrett’s attitude toward archery, once he found it was something he truly loved, he said. He started shooting at age 4, when his grandfather got him his first bow. By age 8, he was already competing with 4-H, a national youth organization program especially popular in rural areas. By the time Garrett was in high school at age 14, he decided it was something he was going to take seriously, “I always had it in the back of my head I was going to do this,” Garrett said of his Olympic aspirations. After having success in a national tournament in Texas with Missouri’s 4-H team, he thought he might be on to something. “I went and shot there and I came back and I thought, ‘Man I really want to do it,’” he said, of making the national team.

 

He soon arranged a meeting with Steve Cornell, an Olympic Development Program archery coach for the national team’s center in Springfield, Missouri, who was coaching in Ohio at the time, Garrett said. “He encouraged me to go to Nationals by his house,” Garrett said of his first taste of national competition in Hamilton, Ohio. He went on to earn a bronze in the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) Olympian Awards in 2013, and also earned Grand National Champion status in Juniors, the eldest division that same year. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Garrett, he said. “It was a very rapid progression for me, I guess,” the 20-year-old said, discussing his progress after making the junior national team. “I went from nobody knowing me at all to people having a pretty good idea who I was,” he said. “It was crazy.”

 

Since that competition, Garrett’s stock has steadily risen in the archery world, with his ultimate goal — earning a spot on the men’s national team for the recurve — certainly a possibility in the near future. He was No. 11 in the national rankings before the recent Texas Shootout, which he knew would be a crucial competition. Garrett now trains full time at Easton’s Chula Vista training facility, which is where he and his peers at the height of their sport hone their craft.

 

Garrett’s most recent competition at the Texas Shootout Championship saw him at the podium earning a gold medal for the men’s recurve Sept. 28 — in the men’s senior division this time. And it also showed he has what it takes to compete at the highest level. Despite breezy conditions that made it difficult, Garrett earned gold after a back-and-forth with past Olympic gold winner Butch Johnson of Woodstock, Conn.,” according to TeamUSA Archery website story.

 

As Garrett continues to work toward his dream of a shot at Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, he said he still tries to learn from every shot as he trains six to eight hours every day. “It’s about looking at everything really objectively,” he said, relating it to how he tries to approach life, as well. “You make a shot and you have to kind of turn yourself into a computer in a way — you take a shot you analyze it, you learn from it and you go on.”

 

Michigan Teen Aims to Achieve International Success

Emily BeeBy Perry Smith

Emily Bee could have hardly expected to be shooting arrows for the United States’ national team based on her first experience at an archery competition — as a spectator at one of her little brother’s competitions.  “My brother is about a year younger than me and was in (an archery competition) at the Livingston Conservation and Sports Association,” said the 18-year-old Hartland High senior.  She watched him compete, again and again. “I was forced to go,” Emily Bee said. “I had to sit and watch, and after about a year, I decided I want to try it.”  But what started out as something to do to pass the time is now more than a hobby for Emily, who’s traveling to Nimes, France, to compete in the Indoor World Championships in February.

The Bees have all practiced archery from a young age on the family’s 10-acre property in Howell, Mich. “We’d shoot around the house a little bit,” she said.  Emily’s brother, Chris Bee, also stayed with the sport, and now is an accomplished archer in his own right.  Both compete at an elite level as members of the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) and the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP).  Her achievements in just the last three years form an impressive list — she finished third in the 2012 JOAD Indoor Championships; third at the 2012 National Indoor Championships; second at the 2012 National Field Archery Association (NFAA) Vegas Shoot; first at the 2011 National Indoor Championships; and second at the 2011 NASP World Championships.

She seems to have fallen in love with the competition aspect of the sport completely, listing several aspects that she enjoys. “I enjoy meeting different archers all around the country,” Emily Bee said.  “I love the competing part of it.” Even the tense moments of competition, which others might shy away from, are embraced by Bee, which is something she’s picked up from experience. “It’s so much fun with the pressure and being able to shoot with different people all the time,” she said.  While the competition might be her favorite aspect, there are a few other cool perks about being among the best in the country at her sport, she said.  One of those perks might be unique to archery, she said — the opportunity to shoot alongside those in the sport she looks up to. “Not many people who play basketball get to play with professional basketball players,” she said, describing a competition she took part in against Erika Jones, a 25-year-old former world No. 1 archer.

Emily Bee isn’t quite sure where’s she’s going to school next year, yet, but she’d like to be a Spartan next year at Michigan State, in part because of their archery program. But she knows wherever she ends up, her success will be in her hands, and that’s exactly how the focused archer seems to like things.  “That’s another thing I really like about (archery),” Emily Bee said. “You don’t have to rely on anyone else, whatever you put into it, you get out of it.

Featured Athlete: Ariel Gibilaro

FEATURED ATHLETE – ARIEL GIBILARO

October 3, 2013

By Perry Smith

Photo credit  By Teresa Laconi

Ariel Gibilaro GatorCup2013There’s not always a rhyme or a reason for how people decide their passion. Sometimes, explaining success is a little bit easier.

Growing up in North Branford, Conn., Ariel Gibilaro, 19, fell in love with archery at a young age, and her drive and determination have her on pace to reach her goal, which is a spot on the U.S. Archery Team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Growing up, Gibilaro, who’s currently ranked No. 7 in the nation, played team sports, such as soccer, and cross country as well. But there was an aspect of archery she immediately loved. “I think it was just the fact that I could do it on my own,” she said. “The sport is up to me. I don’t really have to rely on anyone else, like softball or basketball, for example.”

In April 2005, she began taking archery classes, and by November of that year, she had already competed in her first indoor tournament. “I was 10 when I started shooting,” Gibilaro said. “There wasn’t a high school program — when I first began shooting. I started in a Parks and Recreation program.” And a passion was born.

Gibilaro didn’t even have her own bow and arrow when she started. She borrowed equipment before she graduated to the intermediate class, where some of the kids had their own bows.  Gibilaro’s former coach, Teresa Iaconi, saw the talent and potential at an early age. “I was watching her shoot, and I thought, ‘This kid’s got some potential,’” Iaconi said.

No one in her family had much experience with the sport of archery, but that soon changed.  Looking to encourage their daughter’s newfound passion, Gibilaro’s parents took coaching certification classes and encouraged her at every opportunity. It’s become a family event.

Her mother, Deborah Gibilaro, now coaches Yale’s archery club team, and Ariel’s younger sister enjoys archery as well.

By the time Ariel Gibilaro was in high school, she was shooting hundreds of arrows daily at the local Hall’s Arrow archery range five to six days a week. Gibilaro was driven by success, already accomplishing some of the goals she had set for herself, achieving national recognition as a teenager. But she still has a few goals she’d like to achieve. “I’ve always dreamed of training to make the Olympic team,” she said. “Making the top 16 for the Olympic trials in 2011 was very beneficial in showing me that I could make an Olympic team,” she said, talking about how coming close spurred that drive in her.

Along the way, she became so determined that despite having reached the highest level of competition with the methods she was using, she should probably adopt the technique used by the national team to be successful at that level. She was shooting hundreds of arrows each day learning a new method, unique to Coach KiSik Lee, known as the National Training System. There’s a challenge that comes with changing the muscle memory an athlete uses to shoot hundreds of arrows each day — adjustments that have to be overcome.  The experience was a perfect example of Gibilaro’s determination, her coach said.

Gibilaro’s first competitions after the switch resulted in her student going from a consistent top-five finish in competitions to finishing 50th at one event. Gibilaro was at first disheartened, but she responded, true to form, Iaconi said.

“I always say that those athletes (at the Olympic level) need three qualities: determination, tremendous work ethic and they have to love the sport,” Iaconi said. ”If they have those three things, they’ll go infinitely farther than the natural athlete, she said, stressing the importance of the mental component of archery. “Without that passion for the sport and that fire in the belly that she’s got, they’re not going to get very far,” she said.

After graduating from North Branford High School and practicing in the Junior OIympic Archery Development (JOAD) team program, she received a sought-after invitation. She could either go off to college, or continue to reach for the goals she had set for herself, the highest possible achievement in her sport: making the U.S. National Archery Team.  Gibilaro moved out to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California last August after graduating from high school. She takes classes online working toward her college degree.

“(My parents, Iaconi and I) back then figured that the best opportunity I could take to make the Olympic team was to come out to the Training Center and train full time. “Archery is something that I love to do, so it’s hard for me to think of it as a job,” Gibilaro said. “But essentially, that’s what it is, I’m shooting six hours a day. However, she also has fun living and training with the other archers at the Training Center who are all around her age. “We’re all at the similar stage in our lives,” Gibilaro said. “We’re all a big family, but we’re all very competitive.” It’s a unique opportunity to combine her passion with a chance to achieve her Olympic dreams.

“You definitely have to be able to be self-motivated, motivated to work hard for those goals you want to reach,” Gibilaro said, explaining what drives her, “and to work hard until you reach them.”