From Ancient Books to Ancient Bows

February 21, 2017 | By Samantha Ardoin (SF16)

Members of the Archery Club line up in Santa Fe.
Members of the Archery Club line up in Santa Fe.

On a cold Saturday morning, several St. John’s College students pull themselves out of bed and head over to the Student Activities Center in Santa Fe.

After spending the week studying ancient Greek and Gregorian chants, they are set to immerse themselves in yet another ancient practice. They don arm guards, firmly plant their feet, and raise recurve bows into the air.

They are members of the St. John’s College Archery Club.

Certified archery coach Richard Dew, who has been practicing for nearly a decade, teaches the sport in classic Olympic style. He moves from student to student, offering advice on stance and aim, then stands back to watch as students release their arrows.

When one student’s face grimaces after missing the target by a few feet, Dew says, “The target doesn't matter—you matter.”

Dew’s dedication, as well as student curiosity, has attracted a committed group of students who recently became a nationally registered collegiate club—the first and only collegiate archery club in New Mexico. Student Devin Ketch (SF18) accompanies Dew as assistant coach and range master, and is in training to become a nationally certified coach.

This morning’s lesson is for beginners, while intermediate and advanced students generally take advantage of afternoon sessions.

Daniel Nguyen (SF20), a more advanced student, has been practicing since the fall semester. He attended the morning session to get extra practice.

“I guess I want to be a character in the Iliad,” he says.

As the end of class approaches, Dew pulls out a bag of balloons. The students inflate them and tack them to their targets.

“The bigger your ego is, the smaller your balloon is,” Dew jokes.

Friendly competition breaks out when he adds, “Once you shoot your balloon, you can shoot somebody else’s.”

The arrows of student Mengfei Lu (SF19) fall around the target, rather than on it, and she reflects on her progress. This is just her second archery lesson, and she commits to returning the following week. Like so many of the beginners here, she is undaunted by the journey ahead.