Starting this semester, the Daily Princetonian will publish a weekly feature centered on one of the University’s club sports every Wednesday. Clubs interested in a feature should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Just this past Sunday, the Princeton Archery Club unveiled its newly awarded indoor practice space in the basement of Dillon Gymnasium. Though admittedly nothing more than “a really small space in the squash courts”, as described by two-time president junior Shriya Sekhsaria, the new space marks a monumental victory for the close-knit, upstart club; for the first time in Princeton history, the organization will be allowed to practice on campus. From a historical perspective, the victory reflects the years of hard work that alumni, current students, and community members have devoted to the club.
Sekhsaria is a news editor for the Daily Princetonian.
Just four years ago, an archery club could not be found on campus. More of a myth and legend than a reality, the club seemed like an interesting possibility but one that had not been seriously pursued. However, when eventual club founder Anjalie Field ’15 arrived on campus in the fall of 2011 and realized the club was nothing more than hearsay, the Haverford native decided to take action into her own hands.
Thus in the fall of 2012, Field and a few friends officially sanctioned the Princeton Archery Club. Yet, starting the club was one thing, obtaining recognition and support from the University was another matter. Reflecting on her involvement with the club, Field commented that as an ambitious undergraduate she spent “a lot of time emailing administrators”.
To the aspiring sophomore’s demise, the majority of University response were either negative or unhelpful. Worries regarding the sport’s safety and logistics foreclosed Field’s efforts to obtain official recognition. It was only when local community members offered assistance that the club could begin practice. Thereafter, for the first three years of existence, the Princeton Archery Club stored all of its equipment at Uncle Bob’s storage down Route 1 and practiced at the Wa-Xo-Be Archers field, a full eight miles from campus. Though suboptimal, the agreement with local officials marked a temporary victory for the young club.
While administrators were anxious about the club’s formation, the university’s students sure weren’t. In fact, Field commented, “One of our goals was to take as many people as we could.” By the fall of 2013, the club was making regular car trips out to Wa-Xo-Be with as many as a dozen students attending each practice session. The process of balancing logistics and promoting a sense of welcome quickly created a sense of community within the team.
Then, in the spring of 2014, the club reached another milestone: competing at the Indoor National Championships. After over two years of activism, Field had built the club into a legitimate University organization that had survived through the doubts of many.
Over the course of the 2015-16 season, the club continued to grow and improve. In fact, Princeton Archery competed at both the Indoor and Outdoor National Championships. In the first, six Princetonians medaled in their respective events. Then, at the outdoor championships, Princeton solidified its national presence when Ben Liu '15 achieved the All-American status.
Following the graduation of Field and the club’s founding core, Princeton Archery faced a leadership gap. In the spring of 2015, the club elected the then-freshman Sekhsaria to presidency. As the new leadership, Sekhsaria confronted a plethora of challenges. To begin, following the graduation of Field and All-American Ben Liu ’15, the club lacked veteran upperclassmen experience. With few juniors and seniors to lend cars for travel, practicing at Wa-Xo-Be quickly became a logistical nightmare.
It was in the summer of 2015 that Sekhsaria began petitioning for on-campus storage of archery equipment. After a summer of proposals, phone calls and negotiations, the club earned their space last fall. However, this simple step forward was not sufficient for the club’s president, who thereafter sought on-campus practice space. While many administrators doubted that space would be granted so soon, Sekhsaria unleashed a volley of proposals, plan layouts and requests.
At the same time, the club struggled to maintain its sense of community, interest, and commitment. Towards the end of the 2015 spring, club membership dwindled down to the single digits. According to Sekhsaria, attendance at the club’s weekly brunches captured the organization’s struggle to survive. “For the first three or four brunches, I sat by myself,” said Sekhsaria.
It was only after a grueling recruiting season that the club managed to increase membership. Combined with the coaching tutelage of Liu, Princeton Archery managed to amass a formidable representation at last year’s national championships. In fact, at the 2016 Indoor Championships, three Princetonians placed in the top three for their respective events. Andrew Ge '19 placed second in the junior men's recurve with Stephen Wong '19 following in third. At the same championship, Sekhsaria won first in junior women's barebow. Next, at the club’s second-ever outdoor national appearance, Sekhsaria earned All-East honors and then-senior Logan Lee earned All-American status.
Looking forward to this year, the club hopes to take fully advantage of the new on campus practice space - no longer will transportation and logistics undermine the club’s feasibility. In addition, this past September, the club garnered an overwhelming level of interest from prospective members. When asked how the club chose its members, Sekhsaria commented, “Ability is not a concern for us. If you keep showing up, you’re going to get good at it. I look for dedication and fit.”
Over the course of the next few weeks, Princeton Archery will prepare to host the annual Ivy Archery Invitational, which originated within the Orange Bubble. Further ahead, the club hopes to pose a larger force at the national championships in the spring.