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World's Top Female Archer Has Area Roots

Erika Anschutz's passport lists locations all over the world, from the Middle East to the Pacific Rim.

Yet, the 22-year-old professional archer calls Yankton “almost like home to me.”

Anschutz, currently ranked No. 1 in the world for Senior Women Compound archers, finished first in her division at Thursday's two rounds of the USA Archery National Target Championships.

The three-day event - featuring international participants - is being held at the Easton Archery Center.

A native of Grand Island, Neb. and current resident of Dumas, Texas, Anschutz said she can remember spending plenty of time in Yankton.

“This is kind of like coming home in a way,” she said during Thursday's intermission. “I came to Yankton a lot growing up and shot at a lot of different tournaments.”

Anschutz received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska - “I love seeing all the red up here,” she added - and is pursuing an online Master's degree in forensic psychology at the University of North Dakota.

She started shooting a bow at age six, and over time, progressed to the point where she was competing in young adult and later, adult, divisions.

“It's been like that for me my whole life,” she said. “I shot with a lot of adults when I was younger, so I didn't really hang out much with kids my own age.

“I didn't have a normal childhood,” she added, smiling.

Where as most people her age only imagine what it'd be like to travel overseas, Anschutz has already competed in international tournaments in Croatia, Turkey and Italy. She also plans to shoot in China later this year.

“I usually do five or six internationals (tournaments) every year, and usually they're all over the world,” she said. “I did my first one when I was 13.”

With a wedding to fiancé Casey Jones scheduled for St. Patrick's day next spring, Anschutz joked that she hopes her archery success carries over to her new name.

Asked about shooting in pressure situations at such a young age, Anschutz said she believes archery is one of the mentally-challenging sports.

“I've always thought it's really important to know you're going to shoot well,” she said. “If there's any doubt, it will go to your head, and you'll be thinking bad thoughts all day.

“It's basically 90 percent mental.”

Van Natta Returns To Yankton

Another one of the top female archers in the United States has spent time in Yankton, though does not have the same local connections as Erika Anschutz.

Jamie Van Natta, a 33-year-old Michigan native and current resident of Toledo, Ohio, competed at the South Dakota Cup last year in Yankton and has made previous stops in town for other tournaments.

“Every time I come here, there's something new,” she said between rounds at Tuesday's USA Archery National Target Championships. “This is a huge improvement. This canopy is amazing, and the fields out here look great.

I hope Yankton keeps growing; it's a nice town.”

The owner of seven world records, Van Natta also shot in the USA Archey National Field Championship last weekend and the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) Field Championships from Monday through Wednesday - all in Yankton.

She said having all three tournaments, including the USA Archery National Target, at one site eases the stress on archers.

“The combination of events like this is really nice; I'm glad they did that,” she said. “For me, it's fantastic. I would have competed in all three (events) anyway, but having it all in one city makes it so much easier for travel.”

When it comes to advancing to the professional ranks, Van Natta said she wouldn't have furthered her career if not for her love of archery.

“It takes a passion to better yourself. In this sport, you have to love what you're doing, otherwise you're wasting your time,” she said. “It took a lot of practice for me to get to this point. And it's all because I love shooting.”

Four-Man British Team

Among the nearly 300 archers at the USA Archery National Target Championships are four from the British team.

The team of Naomi Folkard, Andrea Gales and Alison Williamson, as well as Simon Terry, traveled all the way to South Dakota to improve their chances at other international tournaments.

Archers from countries such as the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) are competing in the three-day event that concludes with the Hoyt World Open on Saturday.

“This is my first time up here. It seems like a great little town, with nice people,” said Williamson, a 39-year-old native of Great Britain. “It's a lot different than England, but we've liked being here.”

Williamson has represented her country at five Olympic games, from 1992-2008. One of the highlights of her 33-year career came at the 2004 Summer Olympics, where she earned a bronze medal after taking 21st place in the women's individual rankings.

A graduate of Arizona State University, Williamson said that her and her teammates plan to walk across Meridian Bridge in Yankton so they can share a unique story with their friends back home.

“After we get done (Thursday), we're going to see that bridge,” she said. “That way we can say we walked from South Dakota to Nebraska and back again.

“We just won't tell them how short that walk is.”