By Dave Gulliver
Novo Collegians aren’t known to be athletes, let alone athletes who compete in world championships.
So how do you explain first-year Daniel Schell, who just returned from Cortina, Italy, where he represented the USA Archery team in the World Archery Field Championships?
If you ask him, it actually makes perfect sense: Archery might be the most New College of sports.
“It’s such a mental sport. It is said to be the most mental sport there is,” he said in an interview a few days after returning.
“You have golf, and chess, but archery … you have to Zen it out. You can’t force it. You can’t sit back there and say, ‘I’m going to do this 100 percent correctly.’ But at the same time, you can’t let your mind go. So it’s this really interesting balance. You always have to look internally for solutions and be really honest with yourself. You can’t cheat it. To win and shoot at a high level, you can’t fake it.”
Daniel didn’t always shoot at that high level. He comes from Bowling Green, Ky., and learned archery through his family’s tradition of hunting. He first picked up a bow at age 6, but as he puts it, “I really stunk.”
That changed in time, and when he was 15, his father signed up Daniel for a tournament in Texas. He didn’t know at the time, but the tournament was a USA Archery qualifier. The top three finishers would go on to a championship in Croatia.
He placed third, and got a surprising reception, he recalls: “I was handed a T-shirt and they said, ‘Congratulations, Daniel, you’re off to Europe.’”
Now 19, he is a member of the USA Archery team, and was one of three young American male archers to compete in the World Archery Field Championships in Cortina.
USA Archery is the nation’s governing body for the sport, and selects the Olympic team, as well as teams for various international competitions.
Those competitions have three main divisions, based on the type of bow and style of shooting. Modern recurve archery is the most popular worldwide, and is the style used in the Olympics. The bows have sights and stabilizers for increased archery. Compound bows use a cam system and are more popular in the United States, and in hunting.
Daniel competes in the barebow event, in the junior men’s division. Barebow archery uses a recurve bow, with no sights or stabilizers. When asked if it’s the most “pure” form of archery, Schell simply grins. It’s a common response; he is polite to a fault, his speech peppered with “lordys” and “sirs” when interviewed. “I’m from Kentucky. It’s how I was raised,” he says, grinning again.
Field archery is a far cry from the archery you might remember from summer camps. The archers don’t align themselves across from a row of targets. Instead, in each round of competition, they walk a cross-country course and shoot at 24 targets, ranging from 5 to 50 meters distance, and at a variety of angles – uphill or downhill, sometimes sharply to the right or left.
At Cortina, Daniel made it to the quarterfinals, narrowly missing the cut for the semifinals and placing in the middle of his group. He returned to Sarasota happy with his performance, and ready to get back to practicing. He shoots two to three times a week at Sarasota Archery and a private range, with his coach monitoring him via Skype. He’d also like to share his sport with other students, possibly by starting an archery club.
He’s eager to get back to his studies, having somehow managed to keep up with his coursework. “I got all my readings done while I was on the plane, or about to fall asleep in the hotel room after the second round,” he said.
As a first-year, he’s still considering his academic path, and is taking a varied slate of courses: Andean Pre-History, Introductory Microeconomics, Ancient Epic, Classical Chinese Philosophy and Psychobiology of Sport and Exercise.
He’s thankful to his professors for their willingness to let him take a week away – especially after one week of classes – and believes New College the rare school where he could combine his academic interests with the pursuit of his unique and demanding sport.
“My college advisor in high school, she said, ‘Daniel, you’re kind of a weird kid, you should check out this place,’” he remembered. “I was going through places, and New College kept coming up. So I flew down here with my mom, and thought, ‘You know what, this place is pretty cool.’ And so here I am.”