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World Outdoor Archery Festival: Archery Helps Women, Families Bond In Competition

Not only is Stacy Pearce a woman competing in a mostly male-dominated sport, she gets to compete alongside her two children.

In other words, archery is literally a family outing for the Red Bluff, Calif., resident.

“That's why archery is so much different than other sports,” said Pierce, near the end of her round at the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) National Field Championships on Wednesday morning at Paddle Wheel Point.

“Families can compete together,” she added. “In other sports, parents have to sit there and watch from the sidelines, but here, you're at least together.”

Competing in the Adult Female Freestyle division, Pearce does not to shoot in the same group as her children, but she joked that they're good enough to not need any advice.

Pearce has two children registered in the NFAA Championships, 16-year-old daughter Paige and 12-year-old son Kaden.

It's Paige, however, who has made the most noise in the archery world.

A professional archer on the 18-20 year-old United States Junior Archery Team, she has qualified for three World teams already. Based on her rankings, Paige competed on one of the United States Senior teams at an international event in the Dominican Republic back in March. And she also just returned from another tournament in Puerto Rico.

Paige made her first World Team at age 13 in 2008 and traveled to Turkey, where she helped her team win the gold medal.

As her mother - who teaches archery classes at a middle school - pointed out, it's a proud moment to see a child heed the instruction you've shared.

“As a mother, it's fun for me because that's what I've always done with my children,” Stacy said. “They were shooting a Nerf bow at 18 months old.”

Relationships developed with family on the archery range may be the cause of increasing numbers of female competitors, according to Colorado archer Lynn Walter.

Of the nearly 300 archers competing in the Field Championships, there are 45 adult, young adult or youth women, according to the latest list.

“It seems like younger women get more involved because of their families,” said Walter, who is competing in the Adult Female Freestyle Limited division. “One women (Wednesday) was saying her family hadn't taken a vacation with a bow in 16 years.

“For a lot of people, it's a family trip.”

Walter, in her 10th year of shooting a bow, has been joined this week by her sister - who was supposed to compete but broke her left hand within the last couple of weeks.

“My kids were the ones who really got me into this,” Lynn said, smiling. “It's all my boys' fault.”

In the case of Justine Barden, it wasn't family that prompted her to pick up a bow and arrow.

Instead, the Arlington, Va., resident began shooting in 2004 after the second Lord of the Rings movie was released. A Virginia newspaper listed all the local areas where interested people could shoot, and that sparked Barden's interest.

“I've always wanted to shoot,” said Barden, who is also competing in the Adult Female Freestyle Limited division. “When I was a kid, we had a bamboo stand in the backyard, and we would make our own bow and arrows.

“You couldn't shoot anything past four feet, but it was a good time.”

Since 2004, Barden has furthered her archery career at various regional and national tournaments, though this year's NFAA championships is her first field event.

“We all have a good time,” she said. “That's one of the best things about doing something like this. Everyone's relaxed and friendly.”

When it comes down to the women vs. men debate in archery, Stacy Pearce said the women can hold their own.

“Some of these women are phenomenal shots,” Pearce said, looking around at groups at nearby targets. “Usually, the men are better at that top pro level because they use a higher poundage, but some women can do the same things.

“We've got some pretty good ones out here.”