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With effortless ease, blue-eyed, 16-year-old Ann Penelope Marston, a blonde, 115-pound senior from Roosevelt High School in Wyandotte, Mich., arched her bow against its 23-pound pull, slowly took aim over the slim metal shaft of her broadhead arrow and, with breath held, sent it twanging toward a simulated rabbit target.
The moment the shaft left her hand she knew it was over. After three days of tough national competition in which she shot 462 arrows at 168 different targets in the field, hunter and broad-head divisions, Ann had racked up a total point score of 2,080—200 more than her closest competitor—and retained her National Women's Free Style Field Archery Championship crown. For a national champion who first won this imposing title at the precocious age of 15, pert and pretty Ann takes a casual approach to her sport. Prior to joining 800 other field archers last week at Ludington State Park, Mich. in the largest national championships ever held, Ann had put in only about a week of concentrated practice.
But from the time she first started pulling a bowstring she has been taking archery championships with ease. Ever since she persuaded her father to cut down an old bow for her, at a time when the family was living in the quarters of the Royal Toxophilite Society in London after being bombed out four times during the war, Ann has had winning ways with a bow.
Three months after first touching one she won the Junior Championess title of England, and in the same month that she arrived in the United States in 1948 she entered and won the Cadet Division of the U.S. National Championships. Since then Ann has held at least one U.S. national championship every year. So far her record includes: National Target Intermediate Girls' Championship (1949, 1950), National Target Girls' Championship (1951) and the National Junior Field Championship and National Junior Target Championship (1952, 1953). The sport of archery couldn't wish for a prettier or more talented walking advertisement, and it is conceded that Ann is the biggest promoter of her sport.
Last year she went big time and at the age of 15 entered the women's classes of both the National Field and National Target championships. She finished fifth in target and first in the field event. With her supremacy in the field now established, Ann is entering the National Target Championships at Oxford, Ohio next week in an attempt to capture both title crowns.
The urge to shoot bows and arrows has been with man for some 100,000 years. In modern times it begins and ends for many people in childhood with a dime store suction-cup type of bow-and-arrow set and nothing better to shoot at than the neighbor's cat or the bathroom mirror.
Today an estimated 4 million men, women and children participate in some form of archery, and because it can be enjoyed by young and old alike, it is becoming America's fastest-growing family sport. At least three-fourths of our population has at some time been a "plinker" with the bow and arrow, but the history of archery as a bona fide sport in the U.S. goes back to 1828 when a group of young men founded the United Bowmen of Philadelphia. For almost a century, archery remained the esoteric pursuit of a few enthusiasts. Then Dr. Saxton Pope, a big-game hunter from California, killed a slew of African lions with a longbow. This feat ignited the imaginations of sportsmen everywhere and set archery on an upward flight of popularity that hasn't yet reached its zenith.
Archers in the U.S. today can be broken down into three groups; target archers, represented by the National Archery Association; field archers, represented by the National Field Archery Association and by the growing hordes of hunters who seek game with the bow; and the "plinkers," an uncountable number of people who participate in no organized form of archery but who plink with anything from a dime store bow and arrow to handmade equipment.
Since 1879 the National Archery Association has been the backbone of the sport. It recognizes only the target variety, which requires rigid rules of stance, distance and form. Target archery, however, never fully captured the imaginations of sportsmen and hunters in general as it did specialists, and today there are only about 200 NAA-affiliated target clubs in the country representing some 1,300 members. But in 1934 a band of target archers, tired of restrictions, came up with the idea of setting out simulated game targets at varying distances in the natural surroundings of woodland. The new form was called field archery, and it immediately caught the public's fancy.
The first club to adopt such a field course was in Redlands, Calif. Others soon followed suit and, before long, field archery was an established new sport. It is this form of archery which is currently responsible for a great reawakening and rapidly growing interest in the bow and arrow.