Friends and Arrows

May 18, 2017 | By Charlotte Jusinski

Hao Luo (SF20) prepares to shoot at a target during the archery team's recent competition against the Institute of American Indian Arts.
Hao Luo (SF20) shoots at a target during the archery team’s recent competition against the Institute of American Indian Arts. (Photo by Kevin Lange)

The thup, thup, thup of arrows punctuates the air on the campus of St. John’s College in Santa Fe.

An arrow hits a target, creating a sound similar to a basketball bouncing on a carpeted floor. Another misses the target and a puff of dust rises from the earth behind it.

On a sunny spring day, the St. John’s archery team is competing against the Institute of American Indian Arts, a college on the other side of town. With the iconic Monte del Sol standing tall in the distance, the Johnnies go on to sweep the individual and overall team scores.

Although the tournament is competitive, Ben Kidderman (SFGI18) says the competition in archery is within one’s self.

“And the rest is friendship,” he says.

The other students seem to agree. As they move through a series of targets that increase in distance from 20 to 40 to 60 feet away, they discuss each other’s studies, families, cultures and languages.

Among the archers, one stands out: Abdullah Mirza (SF20), who had many reasons for joining the team. He likes that archery is an individual sport that demands intense focus.

“It also has a rich tradition in my religious background and throughout the world,” he says. “Ever since the first days of Islam, it’s a traditional practice that you learn archery. The three traditional skills are swimming, horseback riding and archery. I have done the other two in the past, but I am the most interested in archery.”

One St. John’s high-scorer is sophomore Liam Warren.

“I think I did pretty well, better than I have been doing recently,” he says. “I did a bit of traditional archery when I was younger, and I really liked doing that, so it’s something I wanted to continue.”

The St. John's archery team poses with their trophies.
Members of the archery team pose with their trophies. (Photo by Kevin Lange)

Other top scorers include Hao Luo (SF20) and Mirza, who is shy about winning first place overall.

“I did pretty well. I’m a little surprised,” he says and quickly adds: “Most importantly, it was fun.”

Later in the day, after time has raced by, the coaches look at their watches in surprise. St. John’s coach Richard Dew asks, “Do you want to do the targets again?” The students respond in unison, “Yes!”

They gather their equipment and start again from the beginning.

Thup, thup, thup go the arrows.