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.)
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.
She 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