Katie Novotny shoots her way to a national title despite lack of experience

May 26, 2015, 10:57 p.m.

On May 17, sophomore Katie Novotny brought home the gold medal at the 2015 Intercollegiate Archery Championships at the Easton Newberry Center in Newberry, Florida.

“The last round was nerve-wracking,” Novotny said, reflecting on her big win from a few weeks earlier, where she came out on top out of about 150 other competitors.

Although Novotny has had big success competing for the Cardinal this year, archery is a relatively new sport for her — she actually only began archery the winter of her freshman year.

“Last January, I saw [a team poster] and was like, ‘Oh — I really want to do this. I’ll just try,’” she said.

It didn’t take long for Novotny to fall in love with the sport.

“It’s relaxing,” she said. “It requires a lot of focus, so instead of worrying about school, there’s that two-hour-long block a day where you just don’t think about that.”

Novotny admits that she had a pretty rough introduction to archery. Because she started during winter quarter, the other freshmen already had a head start on her, forcing her to play catch-up. She began with shooting a type of bow called the recurve.

“Shooting the recurve was really quite difficult for me,” she says — because Novotny has a fairly small stature and the recurve is a large bow, it was hard for her to get enough energy out of the bow.

As a result, she shot in two tournaments her freshman year and didn’t do too well.

“I just could not hit the target,” Novotny said.

After her second tournament, her coach set up a different type of bow for her called a bow hunter, which was much more suited for her size.

When she got her new bow, there were only two weeks left in spring quarter. She spent that time getting used to the new bow before bringing it home with her to Colorado over summer vacation so she could get in extra practice.

By the time she returned to the Farm in the fall, she was ready to work hard, and she now practices nine hours a week on Stanford’s shooting range. She also spends an extra hour a week at a local indoor shooting range. On top of that, she lifts weights twice a week and runs the rest of the week so she can keep up her endurance.

At the Intercollegiate Championships in Florida, it was obvious that her hard work had paid off: She won the qualifying round easily by 32 points. Novotny says that qualifying rounds are easier for her because she just needs to focus on herself.

However, the final round, the Olympic round, is done differently.

“It’s bracket-style,” Novotny said. “You shoot off against one other person and then you make your way down.”

Novotny says that Olympic rounds are not her specialty because it’s much easier for her to focus on her competitor and to get distracted instead of focusing on her own shooting.

In the final round in Florida, though, she says she had some help. Her arrow rest, which is where she sets her bow, was cracked. Because of this, her arrow was not going where it normally would, so she had to adjust accordingly.

Although most people would see this as a problem, Novotny used this as an opportunity to focus more on where she had to aim her arrows, which took her focus off of her opponent.

“It was a good learning experience more than anything else,” Novotny said. “Just focus on your shooting, not how you’re shooting compared to the other person.”

Novotny ended up winning the final round, edging out UC Irvine’s Katie Robinson by only six points.

This past weekend, Novotny competed in the U.S. National Outdoor Collegiate Championship in Virginia, where she won the qualifying round. She ultimately came in fourth out of a field of around 200, winning All-American honors.

Despite the many accolades of this season, Novotny is already looking forward to the heights she can climb to next year with all of these experiences already under her belt.

“I’ll probably switch to compound freestyle,” she says.

Compound freestyle is a steadier bow but it requires greater precision. She is also planning on shooting in some non-collegiate tournaments this summer for practice.

Novotny explains that in the end, archery is just a mental game and the right mentality is what makes a good archer great.

“Everyone knows how to shoot,” she says. “It’s whether or not you can do it in that moment.”

Contact Laura Stickells at lauraczs ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Laura Stickells is one of the Managing Editors of Sports at The Stanford Daily. Growing up in the small, rural town of Bishop, California, Laura captained the powderpuff football team and became particularly adept at driving heavy equipment in her later years, a skill that helped her find a position as an intern at NBC Sports this summer working on Olympic coverage. In her spare time, Laura competes on the Stanford Equestrian Team. She also writes football better than the boys. Laura is a sophomore majoring in communications and can be reached at lauraczs 'at' stanford.edu.

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