By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PALMYRA, Mo. -- Cassie Hancock doesn't have to think twice about what got her hooked on competitive archery.
"I saw someone doing it and thought it looked really cool," said the 13-year-old Palmyra Middle School student who is one of the top young archers in the nation.
So, just how good is she?
A few weeks ago, Cassie missed winning her age division (12-15) by two points at the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas. She was part of a 31-girl field that saw entrants from across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
That title may have eluded Cassie, but she is currently the reigning Missouri state and Midwest sectional champion. The sectional territory covers Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota. In addition, she placed third in the U.S. Indoor Nationals.
Cassie may be a "natural" with the bow and arrow, but that doesn't mean plenty of practice is not a prerequisite. She normally spends a minimum of two hours each day or night honing her skills, usually at Butch's Sports World in Palmyra. Accuracy problems can easily develop from changes in grip, stance, elbow angle or equipment.
"It's easy to get into a slump, just like a baseball player," she said. "My parents (Misty and Jason) help coach me, and we also use videotape."
There's also plenty of traveling involved for an archer with Cassie's skill level.
Misty Hancock said the family is on the road 12 to 15 weekends a year.
"It's an expensive commitment," she said. "It's all we do."
She's not complaining, however.
"As a parent, it's very gratifying to see (Cassie) succeed, knowing that it's something she enjoys," Misty said.
Cassie's interest in archery dates to discovering she had a liking -- and a talent -- for the sport through her activity in 4-H.
"Consistency was tough at the start," she said.
Once she was over that hump, the rest, as they say, has become a developing history.
While maintaining and bettering her archery skills demands quite a bit of what would normally be her personal time, Cassie still finds an adequate amount of hours for reading, drawing and helping out at a local veterinary clinic.
There are no other sporting interests in Cassie's life. Everything is archery-related, and that includes hunting -- but that activity only comes with an asterisk at the moment.
"I have never gone hunting, but I want to go," she said. "I want to go deer hunting really bad."
Cassie says she has enjoyed making a lot of new friends through the various archery competitions and enjoys the glitz and glamour of exploring new sites and cities, such as her most recent excursion to Las Vegas.
If pressed, however, there can be one drawback to all of the success associated with archery -- the travel thing.
"There are some really long trips," Cassie said. "Six hours in a car can be a really long time."
That aside, there remains one common -- and important -- denominator that makes up for all of the highway time, frustrating slumps and practice sessions.
"It's a lot of fun," Cassie said.