Paige Pearce, Archer Extraordinaire
● By Melissa Mendonca
Fire AwayJanuary 2015
By Melissa Mendonca
Photos courtesy of bowjunky.com
At 19 years old, Paige Pearce has more stamps in her passport than many people twice her age. China, Colombia, Turkey, Germany, France and El Salvador are just a few filling the pages.
As impressive as her roster of countries is, it’s not the most remarkable thing about her. The Red Bluff native has recently taken the world championship in archery and achieved the highest score ever recorded by a woman in the history of the sport.
“Setting the world record was more exciting than winning the world championships,” she says. She’s been breaking records since age 11 and was ready to step it up to the world level.
“My parents were both professionals, so they started me when I was 2,” she says. She broke the state record at 11 and says, “At that point, I got serious.” She holds 110 state, national and world records.
“A lot of it is your mental game and how you handle pressure,” she says. “I’m really good at that and I handle pressure well.” She handles it so well, in fact, that she scored 559 out of 560 points on the final day of the International Field Archery Association World Championships in South Dakota last August. In a day of competition, contestants shoot 112 arrows worth five points each.
She competes with a compound bow, which is not allowed at the Olympics, where only recurve bows are used. “World Championship is the highest thing you can do besides the Olympics,” she says.
There are multiple national organizations in archery which focus on different styles of competition. Pearce competes in all of them, and excels in everything from shooting at close to long range with marked or unmarked targets.
“Usually people will stick with one association,” she says. “I do all of them. That’s why my schedule is so crazy.” It’s a schedule that has her traveling the world. Her first international competition was in Turkey at age 13. She’s been shooting in the adult division since that age.
“If I was winning, I’d want to feel like I earned it,” she says of her early jump in age brackets. “If you shoot with people that are better than you, you shoot up to their level.” “A lot of the reason she’s good with pressure is she grew up doing pageants and playing fiddle,” says Stacy Pearce, Paige’s mom. Of archery, she says, “It’s kept us together as a family and kept our kids out of trouble.”
Keeping the family together has been a priority, and one that found Stacy and husband Kevin passing up an opportunity to be on Wife Swap. “I knew they would put us with someone who was against hunting and make my husband take all the trophy heads off the wall,” she says. “There would be no way.”
The Pearce family enjoys big game hunting and participates with both compound bows and rifles. Brother Kaden, a sophomore, particularly enjoys the sport.
Paige blew through high school in two years and is currently a student at Cal Northern School of Law in Chico. She has already completed an associate in arts degree in criminal justice from Shasta College.
She’s chosen law so she can make a decent living and continue to compete on the professional archery circuit. There is a downside to her studies at the moment, however. “I’ve definitely given up a huge chunk of my shooting time to go to school,” she says. She didn’t re-qualify for the U.S. Archery Team in 2014 because she missed competitions due to her studies.
Archery has seen a recent rise in interest due largely to the young adult book and
movie series “Hunger Games” and the animated film, “Brave.” The Pearces do their best to help others get involved. Stacy is a trainer for National Archery in Schools and teaches sixth graders the sport at Berrendos School’s science camp. Paige notes that her home has become a gathering place for enthusiasts of the sport and says, “We help anyone that needs help with their bow stuff at our house.”
So what does a young woman do when she’s already shattered world records in her chosen sport by the age of 19 and has already made it to law school? “Stay at the top,” she says. “Keep doing well.” No doubt she’ll soon be adding filler pages to that passport.