An Indy race car can zip along at 218 miles per hour. That’s also the estimated speed at which an arrow leaves a competitive archer’s compound bow.
It’s not even close to the speed of Chapel Hill resident Christine Harrelson’s meteoric rise to prominence in competitive archery.
Harrelson began archery in earnest just under three years ago, moving into professional competition after just three tournaments. Last month, she competed against some of the best archers in the world and won her first 3D archery National Title event in Metropolis, Illinois, earning $10,000 in the process, and inching ever-closer to a “Shooter of the Year” title.
“To be competitive for ‘Shooter of the Year’ with the top 3D pros in the world: that’s crazy,” Harrelson said, explaining that 3D archers aim at targets marked on effigies of lifelike small-game animals. “This is my bread and butter, and that’s where the money is, because it’s like hunting and it’s outdoors. Being good at this: I’m already ‘livin’ the dream.’”
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This year alone, Harrelson has earned two third-place finishes, a second-place, and her recent first-place win.
“We have six monthly tournaments as part of the Archery Shooters’ Association season,” she said. “I’ve made the podium four times out of the five tournaments this season. We’ve got one more to go at the end of this month.”
Recent success have also earned Harrelson a paid position with longtime sponsor PSE Archery.
“I actually get a paycheck,” Harrelson explained. “I wear their jersey, and I compete under their banner. That’s for a select few, and that’s when all of this became real for me.”
For Harrelson, archery began as a modest solution to a problem however.
“We moved (into town) from a house more out in the country, and we’ve had predator problems,” Harrelson explained. “We brought a few of the chickens into town, and the raccoons started getting to them, so we just needed a legal, practical solution.”
(Chapel Hill allows open archery, Harrelson’s husband Chad explained.)
“These were pretty close shots — about 15 yards or so,” Christine Harrelson continued, “but it was just a question of, ‘How do I keep these chickens alive?’”
If Christine wasn’t aware of how good she was, her husband Chad was.
“I knew her skill level was something really special,” he said. “We started by shooting (dime-sized) bullet cover stickers, and she was nailing those from 20 yards out, which is the indoor target range, and that target is the same size they shoot at. Being able to hit that spot made her instantly competitive.”
Harrelson won her first 3D tournament in Fayetteville in August 2012, which confirmed her talent.
“I won that and thought, ‘Hey, we’re actually okay,’” she said.
Shortly thereafter, she began competing as a pro in national and international circuits and in the Archery Shooters Association (ASA), National Field Archery Association (NFAA), World Cup Archery, and North Carolina 3D tournament circuits.
Harrelson still contends that 3D archery is her first love, thanks to her affinity for bow hunting.
“It’s dominated by compound archers as opposed to recurve,” she explained, “which is more for outdoor, multi-distance, field archery.”
Christine Harrelson said she’s blessed to be supported by sponsors like PSE Archery, Carbon Express, Shrewd Archery, Spot Hogg, Stanislawski Archery Products, and N.C. Hunter Supply, as listed on www.christineharrelson.com. Additionally, she has sought out top-notch training from world-class archers, including Christie Colin, Reo Wilde, and Dan Hart.
After the “Shooter of the Year” is decided this summer (Harrelson stands in second place, but just four points off the lead), she will take part in World Cup competition in the fall and winter.
“That’s indoor archery, and that’s all over the world,” she explained. “In November, it will be Africa; in December, it will be Asia. We’re in Europe in January, and the finals will be here in in Las Vegas.”
While their goals demand much travel, the Harrelsons (including five children, aged 7 to 16) are strengthened by a strong sense of faith and family.
“Our youngest are only 7 and 8, so they’ve grown up on this,” Chad Harrelson said. “Everyone on the ranges knows who they are, and the kids have been respectful.”
Even if only one of Harrelson’s children is taking lessons from their own mother, Harrelson said she’s seen interest in lessons grow, especially among young girls.
“With the Olympics, the ‘Hunger Games,’ the movie ‘Brave,’ the show ‘Arrow,’ there’s just been this wave of interest,” she said. “I’m getting a lot of young girls, but adult men and women are coming in for lessons, too.”
Those interested in archery lessons can get more contact information through her website: www.christineharrelson.com.
Just don’t try to steal her chickens.