Local archers compete, and succeed, at state, national level
Over the past few years, Roberts residents and St. Croix Central students Anna and Ryan Gunderson and Max Kusilek have been consistently in the top five at almost every archery competition they have taken part in.
"I feel like my recent success has been building on the successes I had before it because I was able to gain more self confidence and do better every time," Ryan said. "In this sport, you always want to be sportsmanlike above pretty much everything else. You also can't give up on yourself, but you also have to keep practicing because practice makes perfect."
The trio all shoot at A-1 Archery in Hudson, but they travel all over the Midwest, and sometimes around the country, to compete at the highest level possible for their age groups.
"Shooting bow relaxes you, so whenever you have a lot of stress at home you can just start shooting your bow and that really helps you relax your mind," Kusilek said. "One of the hardest parts for me is growing up. When your body changes and you grow, that means you have to change how you shoot and change the bow itself to be able to shoot well."
Anna Gunderson is in 10th grade at St. Croix Central High School and has been shooting for four years. She was part of the A-1 Archery Youth Team from 2014-2015 and has been part of the Pro-Staff from 2015-2017. Anna now works at A-1 and is a staff shooter. She is also a Level 1 USA archery coach and enjoys helping with youth leagues and lessons at A1.
"I got my start with shooting after my dad got back from Kuwait. That's when I got my first bow and started to fall in love with archery and it has just developed from there," Anna said. "Archery, for me, is just fun. The hardest part for me is finding the time for practicing along with all the other things I've got going on."
Anna most recently took second place in her age bracket at the Minnesota State Archery Association State Indoor Tournament at the Bemidji Archery Club the first weekend in April. She earned a bronze medal through the USA Archery Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) Program and has had a score nationally recognized by USA Archery.
Other accomplishments for Anna include: a first place finish at the 2016 Minnesota State Indoor tournament, a 26th place finish nationally at the 2016 JOAD Indoor Nationals, a first place finish at the 2017 Iowa State Archery Association Pro-Am, a first place finish at the 2017 MN All-State Vegas Shoot, a first place finish at the Mankato regional of the 2017 JOAD Indoor Nationals and a seventh place finish nationally at the JOAD Nationals.
"If there is anyone out there that wants to try archery, they really should come into A-1 and try out a bow or get a private lesson," Anna said. "If they like it, they can start with a basic bow and the basics of archery and then work their way up. Archery is mostly a mental sport. Maybe 10 percent of it is physical, but the other 90 percent is all mental. So if you think you can do it, you can, but if you don't believe in yourself then you won't be able to do as well."
Ryan Gunderson is a seventh-grader at Central and has been shooting for three years after following in his sister's footsteps. Ryan has been a member of the A-1 Archery Youth Team, which is a team of 23 kids ranging in age from 8-16 years old, since 2015.
"I got started because I saw everyone else in my family shooting, so I wanted to be a part of that," Ryan said. "I like archery because it is a sport that very few kids at school take part in it. It makes you feel good that you have something you can talk about at school that other people don't know what you are talking about."
Ryan most recently took part in the Minnesota State Archery Association State Indoor tournament, finishing in third place in his age bracket. Ryan has taken first place in the 2016 Wisconsin and Minnesota State Indoor tournaments, as well as the 2017 MN All-State Vegas Shoot. He also took 10th place in the Iowa State Archery Association Pro-Am and third place in the 2017 Wisconsin and Minnesota State Indoor tournaments.
Kusilek is in fifth grade, but has been shooting for the past five years. He has taken first place or been the champion of the tournament in seven events in the last two years, including the 2016 Chilakoot Bowhunters Club 3D shoot (first place cub), the 2016 Willow River Sportsman's 3D shoot (first place cub), the 2016 A-1 3D shoot (first place cub), the 2017 Wisconsin State Indoor tournament (cub bowhunter champion) and the 2017 Iowa State Archery Association Pro-Am (cub bowhunter champion). He also set a new state record when he claimed the 2017 Wisconsin State Indoor cub bowhunter championship.
"I started because of my sister, who got into shooting the bow when she went to Girl Scout camp," Kusilek said. "One thing that anyone who wants to try archery should remember is that they can't give up."
Kusilek also finished in fourth place in cub bowhunter at the National Field Archery Association Indoor Nationals in 2017.