In the past couple of years, an increase of visibility of archery in popular media — from Katniss in "The Hunger Games," to Merida in "Brave" and Hawkeye in "The Avengers" — has led youth to pick up the bow and arrow. For Zane Stull, an 11-year old archer who brought home the Gold at July's USA Archery Junior Olympic Archery Development, he took his inspiration from something more old school.
"Not many people believe this," Zane said. "But I got started with 'The Dukes of Hazzard.'"
Inspired by the Duke boys, Zane said he's wanted to pick up a bow for as long as he can remember. According to his mom, Angela Muller, before entering the world of competitive archery, Zane got his start hunting with a compound bow.
"He loved the outdoors and had shown that interest in archery, so we got him out there with a hunting bow," Muller said. "Pretty soon he just wanted to go out and shoot, not just to hunt. That's when we signed him up for an after-school program."
Zane shot with a program with Carroll County Department of Recreation and Parks for a year before deciding he wanted to join a more competitive group. After some research, he and his mom found the Tuscarora Archers in Frederick. Unlike the previous group, which attended two competitions throughout the year, the Tuscarora Archers compete with two separate archery institutions, allowing students to compete in two national games as well as a number of state and local competitions throughout the year.
In early July, Zane traveled with the archers to Decatur, Alabama, to compete in the Easton JOAD Nationals, sponsored by USA Archery, the national governing body for the U.S. Olympic archery team.
There, he joined hundreds of other archers between the ages of 9 to 20, with Zane competing in the 9 to 12 age range. The event was broken into two components, a qualification section followed by eliminations. During the qualifications, where archers shot for the maximum score, Zane placed fourth, good enough to move on to the elimination round. During this round, he faced off against other archers head-to-head, with the winner moving on. Though entering in fourth place, Zane eventually defeated all other archers, including the first- and second-place seeds to take home the gold.
Zane said his coaches, Jerry Shuck, Tom Stockman and Bill Phelps helped him develop into the archer he is today.
"They've helped me a lot with my mental game," Zane said. "When I started, if I had a bad shot, it would ruin me for the rest of the competition. Now if I have a bad shot, they've taught me to shake it off and shoot all of the other arrows to the best of my ability and not let it get me down."
Zane practices at home every day for about 90 minutes, shooting between 75 and 100 arrows. In addition, he shoots with his team every Wednesday. When competitions are on the horizon. they shoot twice a week.
"In archery, you can get frustrated in the beginning, because it's a hard sport to learn, but you can't get mad at yourself," Zane said. "It just takes a lot of practice."
Zane said one of the keys to archery is to relax and let your sight float in the general area of the final target, tryng to hold still instead of tensing.
With all of the options for sports out there, Zane said he likes being known as an archer.
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"I like it because it's different, and a lot of other kids don't do it," he said. "When you do archery, all of the kids get to know each other because you shoot together and have fun."
Compared to hunting, Zane said he prefers the competitive archery, which requires more physical strength in order to shoot an increased number of arrows. He said he likes how active competitive archery is, compared to the stillness of hunting.
Zane competes year-round in both indoor and outdoor archery, with varying sized arrows depending on the venue. The indoor season lasts from October to March with the outdoor season filling the rest of the year.
At the end of July, Zane and the rest of the Tuscarora Archers will compete in the second of two national competitions at the National Field Archery Association's outdoor nationals in Mechanicsburg, Pa.