Just a few months ago, DCHS alum and current Emmanuel College student Madalyn Hardegree had never touched a bow and arrow in her life.
Two weekends ago, she participated at the USA Archery Collegiate Target Nationals in Chula Vista, California, finishing in second place at the mixed team barebow competition with partner Preston Dyer.
So how did this all happen so quickly?
“I walked into the archery range with a friend and the coach gave me a bow,” Hardegree said. “They offered me a scholarship…they just needed someone on the team.”
But while her entry into the world of archery came by chance, she went straight to work on the fundamentals, learning as much about herself as the sport itself.
Just two weeks before the team’s first indoor competition, Hardegree found out she was left-eye dominant and had to completely recalibrate her form to that side of her body.
At the outdoor Nationals in California, she realized that temperature and weather conditions have an effect on aiming. While her individual rounds were hindered by those conditions, she made adjustments so that her aim would improve during the team competition.
After only practicing for a month during the fall semester, Hardegree has worked constantly with coach John Winchester during the spring to train on both her archery skills and overall fitness.
Hardegree secured her place at the National competition after a strong showing at a regional meet hosted by Georgia State, besting archers who had been competing for years.
“I was kind of amazed because I didn’t think I would be available to go to California,” Hardegree said. “I got first place out of three [at the GSU meet].”
Although the regional meet had only a few competitors, the Nationals were a different story. Hardegree and Dyer were one of 16 mixed barebow teams to compete.
The pair came in as the No. 9 seed but showed no fear in facing the higher-seeded teams. They began by rallying to defeat California State-Long Beach in the first round before winning against the University of the Cumberlands and Mount Marty University.
“It was kind of intimidating because I just walked on to the sport…and now I’m on national TV and streamed live,” Hardegree said. “I’ve never been under a spotlight like that. I had people from three different churches watching and everyone from home was watching.”
Despite falling to the University of California, Irvine in the final, Hardegree has ambitious plans for next season, wanting to win the individual barebow title.
By earning herself a higher scholarship for next school year, she will be able to invest in her own bow and become even more familiar with her sport.
And through this rapid entrance into archery, her mother has been proudly watching.
“This girl has just amazed me,” Donnia Hardegree said. “If she can accomplish what she has in he past three to six months, imagine what she can do [in the future].”
For Madalyn, a Christian ministries major at Emmanuel, she is grateful for her opportunity and is motivated through her faith to continue the path she is on.
And she is keenly aware of how surreal her experience has been.
“I really think God has provided me a way to get through college,” Hardegree said. “Last year I was showing goats and cows, and three months later I was like ‘OK, let’s pick up a bow’.”