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Southwest Orange Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2020 2 years ago

Eaton sisters take to the archery range

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Sisters Courtney and Cassidy Eaton make their mark on the Windermere Prep archery program.
by: Troy Herring Former Sports Editor

Tucked away in the far corner behind the Windermere Prep campus, a patch of grass and trees abuts Cypress Lake.

A handful of student-athletes draw their bows and take aim at multicolored targets at the end of an archery range.

It’s after school, so the only noises are the trees swaying and the “thwip” coming from the reverberating strings on the bows. A “thud” follows as the arrowhead meets its target. It’s peaceful — and that’s the way sisters Courtney and Cassidy Eaton like it.

“We’re very lucky to have the range that we have,” senior Courtney Eaton said. “I, personally, love this range. It’s really the most peaceful place on campus — just being able to be here and shoot and relax is really awesome.”

 

FINDING THEIR SHOT

With every arrow that flies, there is a process.

Just like a baseball pitcher going through his motion or a basketball player running a play, archery requires precision built up via a physical and mental routine. 

“I step up to the line, and I’ll look to the ground first and completely clear my head of anything else that is going on — if I’m thirsty, cold, whatever — and then I look up to that target and kind of focus my attention on that yellow circle, because that’s what I want to hit,” Courtney Eaton said. “And then I kind of slip into my subconscious and go through nocking an arrow, pull it up and I’ll make sure that the string needs to be aligned with the aperture … then I shoot.”

Much like her sister, sophomore Cassidy Eaton’s approach to a shot is incredibly similar — though, for her, it’s more about handling her nerves.

“I usually step up (to) the line and nock my arrow first to get it out of the way so I’m not stressed out about what I’m doing with that,” Cassidy Eaton said. “And then I’ll usually stare at the ground and start focusing on my heartbeat, because I can usually hear it — I’m kind of nervous. So I’ll focus on my heartbeat and my breathing and make sure I’m calming myself down enough so I’m not shaking too much when I shoot.”

It’s a self-explanatory process, but it’s one that comes with time — and a lot of trial and error.

Before Courtney Eaton entered high school, she had never even lifted a bow and arrow, but she knew it was something she’d like to try thanks to her introduction to an incredibly popular young-adult book series.

“When I was in eighth grade, I thought the Hunger Games and Katniss Everdeen were the best thing ever, and I wanted to be just like her,” Courtney Eaton said. “So my parents, for Christmas, actually bought me a compound bow, and at that time I had known I wanted to come into boarding at Windermere Prep, so I knew they had an archery team.”

Courtney Eaton would realize when she first started that archery in real life was nothing like it was in the fictional series. There were fundamentals that she had to learn — it was more than simply aiming and firing.

It was a challenge to get the mechanics down, but once she did, Courtney Eaton found success by the end of her freshman year as she finished 33rd in nationals at the Easton Newberry Archery Center.

“When I was in eighth grade, I thought the Hunger Games and Katniss Everdeen were the best thing ever, and I wanted to be just like her.”

— Courtney Eaton

While Courtney Eaton competed at tournaments and other events, Cassidy Eaton sat in the stands. Sitting idly by didn’t do much for her, Cassidy Eaton said. 

“I was bored at the competitions — I brought homework and I slept, that was pretty much all I did,” Cassidy Eaton said. “I celebrated her victories with her and comforted her through her losses.”

A swimmer by trade, Cassidy Eaton decided that — with archery being in the off-season — she would pick up the sport and give it a shot. It also was a way of making friends during her freshman year at Windermere Prep.

Cassidy Eaton was given her sister’s old bow, and from there she started practicing with the team. Practices were fun, but the shooting proved difficult, Cassidy Eaton said.

“I came to practice and I remember learning to shoot and going through the steps with coach (Phil) Graves that first year, and getting a really bad shot — I think I completely missed the target,” Cassidy Eaton said. “I have always been the type of person who I see myself do something bad and I want to get better.”

Just like her sister, Cassidy Eaton went into nationals and finished top-50 — ending the tournament in 42nd place.

 

SISTER, SISTER

With Courtney Eaton now in her last season at Windermere Prep comes the eventual breaking up of the sister duo as teammates.

For the two sisters, being able to work next to each other has been nothing but enjoyable, Courtney Eaton said. It’s something that comes with all sorts of perks.

“My sister is coming after me — which is an awesome thing, because I want her to do great and I want her to top me and I want her to be the best she can possibly be,” Courtney Eaton said. “I also think having a sister on the team, you have that friend.”

As the younger sister, Cassidy Eaton sees Courtney Eaton as a point of motivation. 

Truth be told, there’s not much that inspires a younger sibling than pulling one over the older sister, Cassidy Eaton said. And archery provides that outlet that allows her to challenge, and sometimes beat, her older sister.

“It’s really wonderful, because she has given me that little spark of, ‘OK, I want to beat her,’ and that helps me push myself 10 times as hard as I would if I was by myself,” Cassidy Eaton said. “I would push myself very hard because I have that strive to get better, but also you’re there and there is someone else there that you want them to get better and you’re going to help them.”

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Troy Herring was the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com.

See All Articles by Troy

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