You might say that Whitney Williams was animated by an animated film.
After watching Disney’s “Brave,” she decided she wanted to learn archery. And, wow, did she learn archery.
At the National Field Archery Association’s Outdoor National Target Championships in Yankton, S.D., Sept. 7-8, Whitney not only won the national archery championships for her age group (11 years old and younger) – she broke three national records.
Whitney, 11, is a sixth-grader at Charlotte Central School and has been an archer since she was 7. It all began shortly after she saw the movie about a Scottish princess who is an archer and dreams of following her own path in life.
Whitney’s father Kevin Williams said neither he nor Whitney’s mom Jackie knew anything about archery back then. Now, although he doesn’t put much stock in his ability as an actual archer, Kevin said he feels like he’s a pretty knowledgeable armchair archer.
When Whitney became convinced that she wanted to pursue archery, it took some work to find lessons.
“Most clubs don’t trust a child with bow and arrow until they’re 10,” Kevin Williams said.
The family was living in Concord, Mass. At the time (the Williams moved to Charlotte two weeks ago) and they found a club that would take Whitney 30-minutes away.
If at first she didn’t succeed
Whitney said she didn’t exactly shine at her first lesson.
“I pulled back the bow and it made a pinging sound. I hit the target maybe four times out of 60 shots.”
“The coach said, ‘You better come back,’” she said.
“It didn’t go well to say the least,” said Kevin Williams.
“I did go back,” said Whitney. And back and back.
At 8, she won her first tournament, the Rhode Island State Championship.
“There was no one else in my age group,” she admitted. Still, “I got this big gold medal and I wore it everywhere, to school and to bed.”
Whitney realized something.
“I like these big medals. I want more,” she said. “I just kept competing, and now I shoot every day.”
Whitney said one of her favorite memories is winning her first national tournament in Cincinnati.
It went better and better and eventually Whitney outgrew her first club. She started training at club in Manchester, Conn., a 90-minute drive.
Whitney trains with Roxanne Reimann, a member of the USA Archery Team for eight consecutive years and winner of multiple national titles, including a silver medal at the 2000 World Team Championship.
The importance of training
Training is important because it’s the little things that make a difference at Whitney’s level. “When you’re in a tournament, the difference between the best and the worst is your form,” she said. “Move an inch one way and you can have a breakthrough. It’s the little tweaks here and there.”
And she said it also helps that her coach is “outstanding.”
Reimann is “very well-known and very well respected,” Whitney said.
She’s been working with her coach for over a year and during that time archery isn’t the only lesson that Whitney has learned from Reimann. Her coach has taught Whitney the joy of fried cheese.
“Me and my coach bond over fried cheese,” Whitney confessed.
The family’s interview with The Citizen took place over the phone as Kevin and Whitney drove for a weekend of lessons back in Connecticut. Kevin said they were still trying to figure out how to continue with Whitney’s sport in Vermont. After all, Whitney has plans for the future.
“I want to go to the Olympics when I’m 16,” she said.