I am at my first Outdoor Target Nationals and shooting pretty good, was in 5th place out of 16 in the S3DA part of the tournament. During the tournament a teenage girl that was shooting too wanted a photo with me because we were both shooting red, white and blue themed bows. I said yes and we took a quick photo, then I went and pulled my arrows. Once qualifications were over I went over to where her and her mom were sitting and I introduced myself. She said her name is Kaci, and I gave her my contact card so she could email me the photo her mom took of us. She read my card and she said to her mom, "These are the kids who like on my photos on instagram". My brother Fin is pictured on our contact card too, but he wasn't there shooting. Then we took more pictures in front of the event banner. Then I lucked out because she was shooting the USA Archery JOAD nationals the rest of the week like I was. The next afternoon we went to JOAD practice, I practiced on my own and then shot some with Kaci and had a blast. During practice Kaci and me took a picture with Reo Wilde who is a world champion compound bow shooter on the USA Archery team, all 3 of us had red, white and blue themed bows. It turns out Kaci knows Reo, and she had him come over and watch me practice and asked him to take that picture with us. I thought that was cool that she did that for me and that he did that. He told me I shot good and that made feel real good since I was floating my pin just to hit the X which is hard to do at 25 meters. We shot some more then I went to my hotel pool to cool off and relax since the temperature hit 102 degrees that day. Then we went back to where the tournament was for the ice cream social and met up with Kaci again. At the ice cream social I played in a hat pickup, hula hoop and a limbo competition that I won. I also got to meet Team USA Archery Reo Wilde again, the picture we took earlier in the day my dad got printed and I asked Reo to sign it and he did. I met Mackenzie Brown and Andre Shelby too, they are both Team USA Archery Olympic archers. We hung out and played Frisbee and had a blast, she left without saying bye and I was sad. The next day was the first day of the JOAD qualifications and Kaci shot in the morning. We got there before my shoot started, so we could watch some of Kaci's shoot. When Kaci saw me, she gave me a hug. She didn't shoot as good as she wanted, but she didn't get mad like I would have. Because when I don't shoot as good as I want, I get mad even though I know I shouldn't. I was shooting pretty good in the S3DA, and was looking forward to shooting in the JOAD. For the S3DA I was shooting in the fixed pin class, but then I found out for JOAD it was one big open class. My sight would make me mad and ended up holding me back from finishing as good in JOAD since I later found out all the kids that finished above me had fancy expensive sights, some kids were shooting 6 times magnification lenses and all I had was a hunting style single pin sight. Me and Kaci talked for a little bit after her game and before mine, she watched me shoot for a little bit then went to watch another friend of hers at another range shoot. I shot a new Personal Best 319/360 game today along with a 314/360 for a 633/720 total. Kaci thought my score was really good for my age, experience and having a big sight housing that kept me from putting a pin on the X. The reason I couldn't put a pin on the X and had to float it was because if I lowered my sight anymore my arrow fletchings would hit it. I thought my score was good as well since I was floating my pin, but I still wanted a better score. Later that night we met Kaci and her friends at a pool and had a pool party and cook out which were both a blast. From all the talking we did we discovered we had been at many of the same shoots and didn't even know it, we were both at Lancaster and Cincinnati for Indoor Nationals. When talking about Indoor Nationals I told her about my interview with Matt Stutzman while he was practicing, she was actually practicing right by him. The next day was the final day of qualifications, I didn't get a new personal best and was a little upset but it was still a good score for me shooting 25m with that sight. Once my dad and I put my bow away, we were going to stay and watch Kaci shoot. But when I didn't see her target hung up on her bail I started to get worried that she wasn't there and text and called her to make sure she was there. But she was, she was just on the warm up range getting ready. She shot much better than the day before and was very happy with how she shot. After watching her shoot I went back to our hotel and went swimming again. Now it was eliminations. I won my first round of eliminations by 10 points, and when my dad text that to Kaci's mom they were happy for me and said 'Yasss!'. Then my second game I went up against the number 2 ranked kid. I wasn't shooting very good after 2 ends and my dad let Kaci's mom know, and she text back and said 'Kaci is on her way'. Kaci's mom had her come over to my range so I would shoot better and it worked, when she got there I shot a 30/30, 29 and 28. But it was too late, I couldn't make up those points I dropped and I lost. When Kaci came over I shot better because she always has a positive attitude, happy and smiling and that helped me forget about my bad shots. She would keep telling me to smile, dance and have fun when she saw me get down and hard on myself. I had a 9.2 arrow average in that round of eliminations which was good for me and my setup. After I got eliminated my dad went to the Lancaster trailer without me knowing to talk to them and learn about these sights that basically everyone else were using. My dad came and got me and said come down here to the Lancaster trailer with your bow. Once I got there and they told me to hand my bow to them so they could put on a new sight, I felt a burst of happiness come out of my heart because I was so happy. After I shot with the sight at the test range I loved it because I could use a pin at 25m and then at 30m and I couldn't do that with my old sight. It took my dad awhile to figure out if he wanted or could afford to get me that sight that I needed so I could finish higher. But he got it for me because it solved all my needs and he said I deserved it and he was pissed off that he wasn't able to get it for me before this week of national shooting. I have a shoot coming up in September that is at 20, 25 & 30 meters, and I am hoping to win it with my new sight since I am now able to put my pin on the X. For this tournament I will just be shooting my new sight stock without any magnifications or sun shades, but in the future I will want to try them so I will be on the same level as other kids. Me and Kaci are hoping to see each other at future shoots, and I am hoping that one of the next shoots I see her at is The Vegas Shoot. And we still text each other every couple of days to see how everything is going and to just say hi.
Originally published in the July 2018 edition of The Young Archer Magazine