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Archery Can Be for Everyone

A look at one of the walls just inside Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Field House will tell you all you need to know about the school’s archery program.

Neatly arranged are the photographs of nine All-Americans. In addition to honors accorded those individuals, past Wildcat teams won back-to-back national championships in male compound division in 1998 and 1999, after finishing third in 1997.

Among those featured on the “wall of fame” is current Penn College archery Coach Chad Karstetter, a General Services employee at the college. During his three years as a student in the program, Karstetter was a three-time All-American, finishing second nationally in the compound bow in 1997, seventh in 1998 and third in 1999.

Now, the 23-year-old is eager to share with his students what he’s learned along the way, and he’s quick to point out that just about anyone can learn how to shoot a bow and arrow.

“There are probably students at every college who have the potential to do it, but just haven’t ever even shot a bow or been given the training,” Karstetter said. “A lot of these guys that I’m getting have never shot a bow before, but I’ve been able to teach them and then they improve fast because everything they’re told, they do the right way (without having to overcome ingrained bad habits).

A case in point is Justin Wendorf, who graduated last spring. Wendorf never shot a bow before attending Penn College, but, two years later, achieved All-America status, an accomplishment that Karstetter, in an understatement, called “a pretty good improvement.”

“He took the time over the summer to take what he was shown and take himself to the next level. It takes a little bit of dedication. You really can’t do it in one semester, it’s possible, but, nine times out of 10, it’s not going to happen. They almost have to take that dedication home with them on summer break and bring it back in the fall,” the coach noted.

Some might think that growing up archery hunting or as a standout athlete are factors in becoming a good competition archer, but that isn’t the case, according to Karstetter.

“You really don’t have to be the most athletic person out there. People who have some kind of athletic background seem to be able to pick it up a little bit quicker, but you do have to keep yourself in shape a little bit – keep your heart rate down because that keeps you from shaking so much or having movement in your arms when you’re drawing back. And (by being in shape), you don’t get fatigued as fast when you’re shooting . . . arrow after arrow after arrow.”

The coach said becoming a good archer actually may be more mental than physical.

“You’re going to shoot 120 arrows at the indoor nationals and 144 at the outdoor nationals, so it might come down to one or two points,” he said. “Anybody can pick up and bow and shoot a reasonably good group at 20 yards, but, to fine-tune an archer, you need to show them the right technique and form so they can do it shot after shot after shot. You’re aiming at something the size of a dime at 18-meters (60 feet).

“You’ve got to be able to keep your mind set because you are shooting 60 arrows, one after another, and if you have one that goes way off from the middle, you’ve got to get right back in the groove of things,” Karstetter explained.

Each team consists of three archers. In competition, archers have three minutes to shoot three arrows, then go to the target and retrieve the arrows. They repeat that 20 times and are trying for a perfect score of 600.

In addition to being a sport that can last a lifetime, it can provide short-term benefits to college students who like to travel.

This season, Penn College archers will compete in places like New Jersey, Virginia and California, and, when Karstetter was on the squad, he traveled to Taiwan and Spain representing the College as a member of the world team.

“I would like to build a full competitive team to where I have a male and female compound and recurve teams (this year, the College has all but a female recurve team). The problem is getting the people who are already going to school here to come out for the team,” he noted.

With the direction the program is going, that may not be too far off, either.

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