Archery Hits Bull’s-Eye at Brandeis

Dustin Aaron ’14
Photo by Mike Lovett
Dustin Aaron ’14

Katniss Everdeen is the very image of strength and poise. When, eyes focused and fearless, she pulls back on her bow and takes aim — at a squirrel in the tree canopy or an enemy in the arena — her power is irresistible.

Small wonder, then, that the 16-year-old heroine of the blockbuster book trilogy and film “The Hunger Games” is fueling interest in the ancient sport of archery across the nation, including at Brandeis.

Dustin Aaron ’14, who has helped champion the sport at Brandeis over the past two years, takes the aspirations of the Katniss wannabes in stride. He knows firsthand the effect recent hit movies like “The Hunger Games,” “The Avengers” and “Brave,” as well as the 2012 Summer Olympics, are having on students.

“I can’t tell you how many people, both male and female, have said, ‘I’m going to be Katniss Everdeen, or Hawkeye from ‘The Avengers,’” says Aaron, who is majoring in medieval studies and art history (yet insists his interest in archery is pure coincidence).

Aaron, the archery club president, says although Brandeis students come to Gosman to check out the sport throughout the year, their interest seems especially sharp during finals, when they’re looking to blow off some steam.

Two years ago, the Brandeis archery team consisted of four members. Now the team has 14 members, and the club is also very active: On any given day, up to 30 members make their way to Gosman to shoot targets. At the club fair held earlier this fall, more than 200 students signed up to learn more about archery.

The Brandeis team shoots Olympic style, using a bow that includes a sight, which enables an archer to aim (no cross hairs or magnification allowed), and a stabilizer, a long rod on the front of the bow that reduces vibration and helps keep the bow steady.

Target distance varies depending upon the venue. For indoor competitions, a 40-centimeter target is placed 18 meters away from the archer. The 10-ring in the target center, which rewards a hit with the most points, is 1.4 inches across, surrounded by a concentric ring every inch. Outdoors, targets are placed a minimum of 70 meters away.

In indoor competitions, 60 arrows are shot in groups of three, with a total possible score of 600. Outdoors, 72 arrows are shot in groups of six, for a possible 720 points.

Aaron says the Brandeis team has competed as far as 90 meters away, nearly the length of a football field. The target at that distance is 1.2 meters, or 120 centimeters, across — which means the target center appears to the archer to be the size of the tip of a ballpoint pen.

And focused and fearless becomes the order of the day.