It’s 5,147 air miles from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Rosario, Argentina. That’s a long journey for anyone, but Casey Kaufhold is just plain excited.
She’s going to shoot at the World Archery Youth Championships.
Archery is clearly in Casey’s blood. Her parents, Rob and Carole, own Lancaster Archery Supply, and her family has a long history in tournament archery. Rob was a collegiate standout and national champion, and Casey’s brother, Conner, is ranked sixth in the United States.
But this is Casey’s story, and this week the country’s No. 1-ranked cadet archer is preparing for her first World Championships event.
Casey’s got a quick smile, lots of humility – and a fierce game face. Don’t be fooled by her youth or enthusiasm. This kid comes to play.
In Rosario, Casey will face archers from around the world, including formidable opponents from South Korea, where archers are groomed to become the best on Earth. Argentina brings Casey much closer to her ultimate goal: an Olympic medal. Cadet archers who compete in Rosario might just meet again at Tokyo 2020.
“Cadet” is the division for 15- to 17-year-old archers, and it’s considered one of the country’s toughest. Go to any USA Archery national tournament, and you’ll see scores in this division are often as close as the adult standings. The competition is incredibly fierce, and excellence demands a serious work ethic.
Add academics to the mix – Casey is an “A” student – and it gets more challenging. But Casey’s just 13, at least a year younger than the division’s next-youngest competitors, and yet she’s outshooting the rest of the country. It’s almost tough to comprehend.
“It’s a little difficult, but I get it done,” Casey said. “I go to school until 3:30, then finish homework, practice as much as possible, and eat. It’s definitely difficult, but I can make it work.”
Casey was 8 when she started shooting a recurve bow – the kind with elongated, curved limbs used in the Olympics – but she was a toddler when she flung her first arrows from a homemade bow. Despite shooting hundreds of thousands of arrows annually in practice, Casey’s love for archery hasn’t diminished. It’s grown exponentially.
“I feel more excited about everything with every single tournament,” she said. “The passion never seems to go away. I just get more pumped up every day.”
That passion for archery will sustain her through the world’s toughest competition for her age bracket, beginning Oct. 2. Casey will begin the event by shooting a 72-arrow “ranking round,” in which archers are ranked by total score on a target 60 meters away.
Hitting the 10 – a perfect score, in the target’s center – is the equivalent of hitting a large apple from more than half a football field away. For context, Casey scored a 630 out of a possible 720 during her first day at the recent national championships. Those are some serious shooting chops.
After the ranking round, she’ll face her competitors in an elimination round modeled after the Olympics. It’s head to head match play, with the winner advancing and the loser leaving the competition. The tournament also has team and mixed-gender team eliminations, but Casey’s participation will depend on how the team competes as a whole.
“Casey is a beast,” Rob Kaufhold told Lancaster Online earlier this year. “She is very strong. Competitive archery is a lot like skating or gymnastics. Mentally, it has a lot of parallels to golf.”
To train for Argentina, Casey has been doing more of what works for her. “Just shooting a lot, more at blank bales to make sure you know and feel your shot,” she explained, referring to a blank foam target with no bull’s-eye. Archers use this technique to focus more on the feeling of the shot than the result. “Then, I take it outside to see how it scores or groups. I’m shooting a lot more arrows each day to create endurance.”
At her age, it’s incredible enough that Casey holds national records and titles, but to make the “world team,” as it’s known among archers, is one of her greatest achievements. “It was very exciting and different because I have never been on a USA or world team before,” she said of the Team Trials. During that event, she had to shoot a high ranking round score, and win head-to-head matches to earn one of the team’s three coveted spots. “It’s a cool experience to know you will compete for your country.”
In setting her sights on Rosario, Casey looks forward to visiting new cities, and seeing how different or similar Argentina is to Pennsylvania. She’s excited to see old friends, and make new ones on the field.
Rob and Carole will accompany her, while Conner will lead her cheering squad from home.
In fact, Casey’s brother has been a critical part of her training team. “We shoot together a lot and we have shoot-offs in the yard,” Casey said of Conner. “We’re always competing. You lose, you don’t get to go fishing. … We make silly bets to make us more motivated to win.
As for Casey’s ultimate motivation, it’s still an Olympic medal. Rosario is a major milestone in that journey, but she’s prepared for the long road ahead.
“It takes a lot of hard work,” she said. “It doesn’t just come. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it always pays off.”