Archery is one of the oldest sports in the world, yet it isn't one that many people are familiar with. But for one teenager from Moneta, it's been his life for as far back as he can remember.
"My favorite thing about archery is the amount of focus it takes in a single second to put that arrow where you want it to,” Archer Merritt said. “It's really challenging and it's always had that appeal to me that you can spend a whole lifetime on it and not master it.”
At just 14 years old, Archer has already been shooting for 11 years. He's been the Archery Shooters Association state champion three times and has placed in the top 10 in 14 of the 18 national tournaments he's competed in. With the goal of going pro in his sights, Archer is on the right path to get there.
“I've started to win some of the national tournaments and all I have to do now is get to an age when I turn 18 I can sign a contract,” Archer said. “I can't legally sign a contract at 14 so that's a little bit of a problem. But after I turn 18 then I will be able to sign a contract and become pro. So I'm kind of waiting on time."
It takes extraordinary skill to reach the top level in any sport, and for Archer, he's got 20-10 vision to go along with a natural instinct, which was apparent at a young age.
"I started Archer off when he was 3-years-old with one of those toy bows and he just really took to it,” said Archer’s father, David Merritt. “There was a day in particular and it was right here. We had a little dinosaur target that we kept setting up on top of the bigger target. We challenged him to hit that as many times as he could. By the time me and his friend got finished counting, he had hit it 14 times in a row. I think that's when the light bulb went off for me that, man, he really gets it."
Another thing working in Archer's favor is that his family lives-on and runs Spring Lake Archery Park, making it easy for Archer to practice, with the resources right at his fingertips.
"He's got his own training facility,” said David Merritt. “You couldn't ask for a better training facility just to have fun with it but to pursue being a shooter in Archer's shoes. He really has what it takes. He's got the skill. He's got good eyes. He's got the young attitude and he's got a facility like this to shoot."
"It's been really, really helpful because a lot of kids I know want to practice but they just don't have the place or they don't have the resources to practice,” Archer said. “They don't have the same area and they don't have the facilities to practice. So it definitely helps a lot. I don't have any excuse not to go outside and train."
Now to the name "Archer." It's actually his real middle name, but what he's always gone by. Little did his parents know it would be so fitting with the sport he chose to pursue.
"It's funny because they really had no idea that this is what I was going to do,” Archer said. “My dad was really more into being an outdoor educator and rock climbing and playing in the woods. He could have just as easily named me rock. It was just all good luck. A happy accident."
His skill though, is no accident, and Archer's continuing to put in the work to make it to the top level, starting with his next National ASA Tournament in Kentucky at the end of the month.