Ty Pelfrey can pinpoint the exact moment he fell hard for archery.
He was a second-grader at Park Avenue Elementary School in Yuba City when a member of the U.S. Olympic Archery Team paid a visit.
Pelfrey had fiddled with a kiddie version of a bow and arrow in the back yard before, but this was the real thing.
“I remember I was sitting by the sandbox, looking up at him. It was beautiful, the way the arrow left the bow and hit the big color target,” The Penn Valley teacher said. “There was just something romantic about it. (I envisioned) Robin Hood and the his Merry Men.”
“I was hooked. It’s been nonstop passion since then,” he added.
Along with multiple state and national awards, Pelfrey’s passion has earned him a shot at a world title.
Pelfrey, along with Grass Valley’s Mark Applegate and the Lake of the Pines’ Rebecca Nelson-Harris, will go bow to bow with the best barebow archers on the planet at the 19th World Field Archery Championships in Croatia July 5-10.
Modern field archery – a distant cousin of the Old English tradition of roving, a form of casual bow hunting – is on the opposite end of the spectrum from standard target archery.
Unlike the more familiar form of the sport where competitors shoot at paper targets from standard angles and distances on neatly manicured fields, in field archery, anything goes.
The setting for the 24-target field archery course can be anything from jungle to desert and everything in between.
“You can shoot up at targets up to 65 degrees and down 75 -80 degrees,” Pelfrey said. “In a competition in Utah, we had a target at the bottom of a rock cliff. There was a rope attached to the rocks, which you could tie around your waist just to be able to shoot.”
“Some people declined, but I did it. You had to do it if you wanted to win,” he added. “But that’s the allure of the sport for me. You never know what’s going to be around the bend.”
Each one of the Nevada County trio earned his or her spot with top-three finishes at the National Field Championships/World Field Trials in Tippecanoe, Ohio, on June 6.
Pelfrey, the 1999 and 2001 U.S. National Barebow champ, will make his second trip to the biannual world championships.
“The key to going to the world championships and doing well is to take it one arrow a time,” said Pelfrey, who didn’t make it past the qualifying round in the world championships in Italy in 2002. “You can’t think too much about one shot, good or bad. It’s easy to get distracted. If you can avoid that, you can do really well.”
Applegate, who holds eight national barebow (a bow with no mechanical sight or stabilizer) records along with more state and national championships than you can shake a quiver at, is an old pro when it comes to the spotlight.
The finishing contractor will make his fifth-straight trip to the big dance.
He’s placed 28th, 15th, 12th and 13th, respectively, in his previous four appearances.
“I’ve never made it out of the (elimination) round because I tend to have a bad target every once in a while,” he said. “In qualifying, there are enough targets to make it up. But once you’re in the elimination round, there’s no room for any mistakes.”
The tourney format goes like this: The first two days are qualifying rounds. The distances of the first 24 targets are unmarked. Archers get a break on the next 24, as all distances are marked. The top 16 from each discipline make it to the elimination round, but all point totals are dropped down to zero. The numbers are cut in half in each of the next two elimination rounds, leaving the top four to battle it out for the world title.
“I don’t feel any pressure going in. With me and Ty, this year’s squad has a pretty good chance,” Applegate said. “I think Sweden’s going to be the toughest. Their team has three guys who’ve won the last three championships.”
With less than two years on the range under her belt, Nelson-Harris is a relative newcomer to the sport.
She sure doesn’t perform like one.
She’s won both the state and national indoor championships in the compound bow division, and took 13th overall in a combined men’s and women’s division at the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas over the past 18 months.
Like Pelfrey, Nelson-Harris caught the archery bug early.
She was at a summer camp as a seventh-grader when it hit her.
“The camp offered archery. None of the kids were doing it, so the range was empty. I was totally intrigued.” she said. “I did it for the five days I was there, but that was it.”
It wasn’t until over a decade later when she had the chance to get back into the swing of things.
“I have two teenage boys. I was looking for something for them to do, and I thought archery would be perfect,” she said. “But then I picked up a bow. I didn’t want to let them have all of the fun.”
Now she’s primed to make her debut on the world’s stage.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing the European women and how they shoot,” she said. “But the most important thing to me is to be able to shoot for my country. I’ve worked long and hard for this.”
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Another week on the track and another win for Brad Sweet.