At the end of the 2019 season me and my dad decided that we weren't going to shoot any national NFAA events in 2020 because I would be moving into the 14 and under class and would be at the bottom of the age group. But we were still going to shoot NFAA Indoor Nationals since it's only about 6 hours away, and only at 20 yards. If it wasn't cancelled, it would have be my first time shooting a 5 spot at 20 yards for a national event. I like going to larger tournaments and shooting them first when I know I have no chance to win, so that way I can get the experience and have more fun too. This way there is less pressure on myself to win, and I can learn and have fun and learn all of the tournament specific rules. But when we saw that the NFAA would be rescheduling their Field Nationals and Dakota Classic the same week as their Outdoor Target Nationals, we said "screw it, let's do it". And another reason for going was leading up to these events I was shooting really good and my PSE Perform X SD was feeling really good.
Every year me, my brother and dad go on a father sons trip at Spring Break, but this year it was cancelled because of Covid-19. This year my brother had a different Spring Break than I did, so we were just going to stay close to home and do something in Kentucky or West Virginia for a weekend. My dad wanted to take me to Mount Rushmore last year when we were in Yankton, but when he found out it was 6 hours away in the wrong direction we didn't go. So this year we decided to leave two days early and go to Mount Rushmore first as our makeup mini Father Son Weekend. My brother didn't come since he doesn't really like competing and is in his senior year at a joint vocational school and couldn't miss school days.
On Wednesday night me and my dad got all of our clothes and my archery gear packed in the truck to go to Yankton South Dakota. But we packed more than just that, we packed a cooler of drinks and food and our air fryer so that we could eat in the hotels and save money. When I got home from school Thursday I put my book bag in the truck, put my bike away, grabbed a snack and we left. About an hour and half into the drive my dad had a job to do. He does not have a normal desk job, he travels for work and he scheduled a fast easy job on the way so that he could make money to help pay for the trip since he had to take so many days off to take me to South Dakota. I waited in the truck and watched videos on my phone while he went and did this job. Then we got back on the road and drove about 5.5 hours more. At about 10pm we stopped at a rest stop, and I thought it was just a normal truck stop. But I was mistaken, it was Iowa 80 the biggest truck stop in the world. My dad wanted to walk around to help him stay awake. We also stopped at this rest stop last year, the first time we drove out to Yankton for their Outdoor Target Nationals. Then we drove another two hours and got a cheap hotel for the night, my dad woke up 6 hours later and woke me up so we could get back on the road. Then we drove like another 8 hours to Sturgis, but on the way stopped for gas at a place and I took photos with some buffalo statues there so I could post them to Instagram.
When we got to our hotel near Sturgis, we unpacked the truck and right away then left to go to the Harley Davidson shop before it closed so I could pick out a shirt. When we got to the Harley shop it was smaller than my dad made it sound. The only kid shirts they had were either infant shirts or one shirt in my size but it didn't have Sturgis on it so we didn't get one and I wasn't happy. Then we went to the Sturgis motorcycle museum and did get a shirt there, and then looked around at really old and cool bikes. Then we walked down to one of the local bars and had our lunch / dinner, I ordered a kids burger. I was really hungry and worried that it was going to be like a McDonalds burger and didn't want it, but it wasn't. It was best and biggest burger I ever had, and I was happy since my dad paid the extra money so I could have bacon and cheese on it. The next day was Saturday and we drove to Mount Rushmore, technically. We went on a very cool helicopter ride first and I saw 3 of the heads of Mount Rushmore. That was my first time on a helicopter and it was really cool, my dad had been in helicopters before when he was in the 82nd Airborne Division. On the final drive to Mount Rushmore we stopped at a place that made sculptures out of wood with chainsaws and took some photos on their big pieces. After that we made it to Mount Rushmore. We stayed 2 hours and watched the same movie about the making of Mount Rushmore twice and I ran most of the path that took you really close to the sculptures. Then we went back to the hotel and I had a kind of quick pool and hot tub session before the NASCAR race started.
Sunday morning we went to the mini golf course that was right next to the hotel, it was pirate themed. But going into it, I thought I was going to be beat my dad but he beat me again but I did have two hole in ones. We drove around waiting for the go-kart place to open up that we found online. I was excited to go there because I was 1/4 of an inch taller than the height limit, which meant I didn't have to ride with my dad and could go by myself for the first time. When we got there the lady at the counter said I couldn't drive by myself because I was too short. We told her no I was tall enough because we looked at the website first. She said they got new bigger carts in and I wasn't tall enough to drive these carts and would have to ride with my dad which made me very sad since I was looking forward to finally driving a go-kart by myself. So we left.
On our way to Yankton we stopped at a nuclear missile silo which I thought was boring but my dad enjoyed it. When we got to the hotel about five or six hours later we just chilled and watched TV since we missed open practice. Since we missed open practice that day I shot in the hotel room at my practice bag that we travel with.
On Monday which was all open practice day I met up with my friend Leann, we started on bag targets then shot half of a hunter field course then we went indoors and shot there. Tuesday was day one of shooting which was field. I was shaky all day and had one miss that set me back a little but I tried my best to bring it back. Wednesday I shot the hunter round, I did not have a good day and could not focus. I screwed up my form and kept hitting my arm and it started bleeding a lot. And overall I just had a really bad day. Thursday I shot my animal round, I did not shoot how I wanted but it was much better than the last two days. When I was done with field we went to lunch with Leann and her parents. We went to lunch at Pizza Ranch then went back to shoot our outdoor 600 game. During the 600 game I was shooting good, but somehow at my last arrow at 40 yards I missed and it screwed me up for my 50 yard game. On Friday I shot my 900 game, I shot good at 50 and 40 yards but my 30 yard game on a bigger target was worse than my 30 yard game yesterday on a smaller target. I think that was since my pin was jumping around more on the bigger target and I wasn't focusing enough to keep the pin on the X.
Besides just shooting, I was doing some interviews with the pros. The interviews were fun, the interview I did with Steve and Linda Anderson I stood on a table so that I could be in the same video. But one of the interviews I was mad about was with Stephan Hansen, he snuck out on me and didn't do the interview even though he said he was going to do it and Steve Anderson told him to do it. Some other interviews I did was with Bruce Cull, Tim Gillingham, Kyle Douglas, Jose Drapeau, Dan Jasa and Keith Trail who invited me and my dad to bear hunt on his property. And I would like to apologize to Keith because during our interview I said he was in the Marines, when he was actually in the 82nd Airborne like my dad was. And I know from my dad and his airborne buddies what they think of legs.
On Saturday I shot my qualification round for the Classic, and I shot the best I had the entire week so far. I shot really good mental game, which was really good considering how bad it was. Going into this National Round Up I had high expectations for myself since I had podiumed in both the Classic and Outdoor Target Nationals the year before in the 11 and under class. I put too much pressures on myself expecting to finish in the top half this year even with moving up age classes. I will be back in two years when I am at the top of my age group and will hopefully win or podium then. Because you shouldn't win or podium at a national event when you are at the bottom of the age group, and the smallest by a lot. On Sunday I shot eliminations and went against a better seeded kid and he knocked me out. After the first end I was up by 1 point, but I had a really bad shot that was a 7 in the second end and he went up by 3 after that end. But remembering that I wasn't suppose to win, I was just shooting and shot really good for me. I had a really really good mental game for that eliminations round. I shot an 8.8 arrow average at 50 yards on a 92cm target, which was better than my 8.5 goal and better than the 8.1 I shot during qualifications, so that was a win for me.
All in all this NFAA National Round was a good experience for me. I can't wait to come back in two years and hopefully win or at least podium at them. My realistic expectations shouldn't have been finishing in the top half, but just not getting last since of my age and size. To just learn and well really work on my mental game since I am still working on that. There is nothing on the line when I shoot since I'm just a kid, but I forget that when I am shooting and I think need to be perfect. The miss I had at 40 yards I took way more serious than Paige's miss that she got because of a mechanical failure. She lost out on thousands of dollars but you couldn't tell from the look on her face, just by her arrow sticking out of the ground in front of her. And I was just trying to not get 2nd from last place, but that's where I still finished.
This story would have been out sooner, but my teacher deleted it off my school laptop since she said it wasn't for school and I had to retype it all.
Originally published in the October 2020 edition of The Young Archers of BowJunky Media