PALMYRA, Mo. –She’s ranked first in the state and the nation and fourth in the world in her age group for archery.
Cassie Hancock, a 13-year-old member of the Marion County Silver Spurs 4-H Club, recently took fourth place in the youth division of the World Archery Tournament in Las Vegas. Hancock is one of nearly 2,000 archery participants in the state’s 4-H program, according to University of Missouri Extension 4-H specialist Gerry Snapp.
Hancock took top honors in her division at the Missouri Bowhunters Association State Indoor Championship in Linn recently and broke the state record she set the previous year. She also won against 33 female competitors in her age division in the National Field Archery Association National Indoor Championship in Louisville, Ky., in early March. This is the second-largest shoot in the U.S., second only to the Las Vegas shoot that she took honors in earlier.
Hancock makes archery look easy, but it’s hours and hours of practice that put her on target. She hones her stance, grip and shooting skills two hours daily at a local sports shop.
“Archery is 5 percent physical and 95 percent mental,” she said. She stays on top of her game by daily practice and a healthy diet that steers clear of caffeine and excessive amounts of sugar.
Hancock is one of a growing number of girls involved in nontraditional 4-H activities. Through the 4-H archery program, she has met many other youth and adults and had opportunities to travel. She still manages to find time to read, draw and work at the local veterinary clinic, all the while remaining on the “B” honor roll at school.
That is in large part due to time management skills Cassie learned through 4-H, said her mother, Misty Hancock. “She knows she has to accomplish a certain amount of things in a set time. She practices shooting every day. During the school year, she also has to do homework and her regular chores at home. In the summer, she volunteers at the vet clinic on Tuesday and Thursday. She also has learned to shoot earlier in the day during the summer because by afternoon it is a lot hotter on our blacktop driveway she practices on.”
Her success is supported by studies that show that 4-H members are 300 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors, 70 percent more likely to go to college and more likely to contribute to their communities.
Her mother said 4-H and the archery program helped Cassie gain confidence. “She used to be shy and reserved,” her mother said. “I noticed that she started gaining confidence in 4-H when she would do her demonstrations. She learned that it was OK to get up in front of people and talk. No one was going to laugh at her or make fun of her because they all do the same thing.”
Chase Wilson, 17-year-old Oyster Prairie 4-H member, placed fifth in the World Archery Tournament in Las Vegas. He has been a Lewis County 4-H member for nine years and has been shooting competitively for eight years. “It’s the biggest thing in my life,” he said. “Once you find out about it, you get hooked on it.”
He, too, takes a disciplined approach to the sport. “It’s a challenge. It’s just like any other sport,” he said. “You have to put in the time and work.”
Indoor shooting competitions require that 30 arrows be shot in an intense round. This is where practice and stamina pay off. “You have to have muscle memory to shoot over and over again,” he said.
Wilson is expected to graduate as valedictorian of his senior class this year at Highland High School. He has been accepted at the University of Missouri and plans to major in chemical engineering.
Wilson set a goal of competing on the Missouri 4-H team at the 4-H National Shooting Sports Invitational. He accomplished this in 2010, competing on the state compound archery team with a trip to Kerrville, Texas, where the archery team helped the Missouri team win first overall. In 2012 he learned a new discipline and competed on the Missouri recurve archery team in Grand Island, Neb.
His mother, Kim Jennings-Wilson, a 1988 graduate of MU’s College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, had participated in the now-defunct Walnut Grove 4-H Club in Lewis County for about 10 years when she was a child.
She feels that her son’s participation in 4-H helped him develop self-discipline and goal-setting skills that will aid him in college and life. As a 4-H officer and member of Future Business Leaders of America, he gained confidence in public speaking and had the opportunity to travel in and out of the state. “4-H teaches them to do the dirty work in order to do the fun things. So it’s like real life. You have to do the work in order to play,” his mother said.
For more information about 4-H shooting sports, go to 4h.missouri.edu/shootingsports.