Take your preconceived notions of archers and stuff them in your quiver.
Emily Rose Yang, who just turned 17 and stands 5 feet 1, isn’t about to pass for Robin Hood or William Tell, but she’s just as likely to hit the sweet spot as those folk figures.
In March, the junior from St. Paul’s Open World Learning Community bested nearly 500 students — boys and girls — to win the Bulls-Eye State Tournament.
“I’m short compared to my competitors, but my strengths outweigh my weaknesses,” Yang said last week, a few minutes before diving into homework.
Those strengths include a willingness to spend extra time on the range, as much as two hours a day. Her interest in the sport didn’t come until seventh grade, when she joined a local archery club and started tagging along with her dad, Tony Yang, and her uncles on hunting trips. Within a year, she was better than her family members.
Yang’s performance at the March 24 tournament in Bemidji, nailing the bull’s-eye with 23 of her 30 arrows, makes her one of the few girls — and certainly the first Hmong-American — to win the title. This weekend she’s in Louisville, Ky., competing in the national tournament, where she hopes to qualify for international competition. The Junior Olympics also may be in her future.
“There are archers that are more naturally gifted, but Emily has shown that by practicing a lot, you can shoot just as well, if not better. Hard work pays off,” said her father, who is deputy director of the St. Paul Public Library.
He said he spotted only four or five Asian-American students at the state tourney, held by the National Archery in Schools Program.
He believes his daughter’s success will help boost those numbers.
“She’s an inspiration to other Hmong girls,” he said. “She’s showing them that you can compete fully in all sorts of sports, not just basketball. You don’t have to be as big, fast or strong.”
When she’s not on the range, Emily Yang mentors younger students and is writing a fantasy novel in the style of some of her favorite book series — “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” “Red Queen” —all of which feature strong female protagonists.
She admits that “Hunger Games” heroine Katniss Everdeen — a sharp-eyed archer — is a particularly strong inspiration. And just how would Yang do in those novels’ do-or-die contests?
“I can climb trees and shoot a bow and arrow, so I’d survive for quite a bit of time,” said Yang, who aspires to attend Minnesota State Mankato. “Maybe I’d win.”
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