By Ashley Hocking
Twisting her body as she pulls back on her six-foot tall traditional English longbow, junior Kennedy Dold releases a fletched arrow. It sails across the sky and lands directly in the center of bullseye.
Dold practices the ancient sport of archery daily using historically accurate recreations of equipment English yeomen would have used in the 15th century.
Her interest was sparked seven years ago when she read about the projectile practice in a history class.
“I was just super interested,” Dold said. “I’ve always loved the English longbowmen. I was reading about them and I figured, ‘Why not experience history?’ ”
With only the help of a history book and a few step-by-step YouTube videos, Dold taught herself the art of archery in her backyard shooting range.
“I really try to follow how the English longbowmen practiced and shot,” Dold said. “Honestly, archery is just one of those natural things that has been around for centuries. I mean it does take some practice to figure out how to aim and that kind of thing, but it’s just a very natural pull back of the arm.”
Dold’s mother, Jean Younger, has always been very supportive of her daughter’s willingness to try new things and stay active.
“I believe she got [her first] bow for either her birthday or Christmas, which she used so much that she broke,” Younger said. “It is pretty cool. She has become a very good shot. She goes out by herself quite a bit, so many times I don’t even know she is out shooting, but sometimes she will ask if I want to go out and watch.”
Hollywood helped archery become a part of popular culture in 2012 when the first installment of the Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, “Hunger Games,” hit cinemas featuring the heroine Katniss Everdeen. Shortly after, Disney released the animated movie “Brave” that gave audiences another bow-wielding role model.
“When I tell people I do archery, they’re like, ‘Oh, so you’re like Katniss,’ ” Dold said. “I’m just like, ‘I guess.’ I think a lot of the reason archery is so popular [is that] the movies have increased interest.”
In the past year, The Archery Trade Association’s archery equipment sales alone have increased by 20 percent and the USA Archery website’s viewer traffic jumped by 30 percent. With the release of the second installment of Hunger Games on Nov. 22 and the winter Olympic Games a few short months away, the sport’s popularity is expected to rise once again.
“Hunger Games” heroine and actress Jennifer Lawrence was trained intensively by Olympic archer, Khatuna Lorig, before she possessed the ability to shoot an apple out of the mouth of a roasted pig.
“It is essentially a weapon,” Dold said. “During the Middle Ages, it was used to kill people. [Audiences] aren’t really thinking of it as a weapon.”
In the future, Dold hopes to participate in archery competitions with her traditional English longbow.
“A lot of the competitions I’ve found use compound bows, which have all the scopes and pulleys and riggings on them,” Dold said. “I feel like using scopes is kind of cheating.”
Dold often encourages her friends, such as junior Cortlynn Stark, to pick up a bow and learn the art. During the initial teaching sessions, a few arrows were sacrificed.
“Kennedy was trying to teach me how to shoot, and I shot it over the hay and into the roof of the barn. It got stuck there and we never found the arrow,” Stark said. “Another time I broke an arrow. I shot it and it lodged in the barn. I pulled it out, but the tip fell out with the arrow.”
After a few lessons, Stark gained an appreciation for the hard work the sport entails.
“You have to practice a lot. It’s a really difficult sport to do,” Stark said. “It looks really easy when you’re watching it on film, but it’s not as easy as it looks.”
The bow-wielding pair plan on taking an archery classes together in the future at a local range.
“I really wanted to get more involved with an archery troupe,” Dold said. “I was talking to my friend, Cortlynn [Stark], and she said she wanted to do it with me. She sounded super interested. Since I’m not doing anything over the winter, I figured it would be a fun time.”