NBA star LeBron James turned professional following his graduation from high school. Cassie Hancock of Palmyra might well do the same thing.
Both competitors are known for their accurate shots. The only difference is that while James’ shot is done with a basketball, the 13-year-old Cassie’s shots are made with a bow and arrow.
Cassie, the daughter of Jason and Misty Hancock, has enjoyed increasing amounts of success. She recently finished fourth in her age division in the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas, missing top honors by just two points.
Last year the teen set a new record in winning the Missouri State Tournament. She also won the Midwest Sectional Tournament in 2012. She’ll be defending her titles in both tournaments in the coming weeks, as well as competing in the Indoor Nationals in Louisville, Ky., in which she placed third last year.
Cassie has become a force to be reckoned with in a relatively short amount of time, taking up the sport only five years ago.
“I started 4-H and needed some projects to do and I always wanted to try archery,” she said, adding the sport proved to be a perfect fit. “I’m not a person who does well in really big groups like basketball. Archery is a ‘you’ type of sport. It’s really fun.”
Cassie’s parents have been surprised by their daughter’s development.
“She started shooting and getting good at it. We were pretty impressed,” said Misty Hancock. “Then we started upgrading her equipment with the sight, stabilizer bar and different things like that. It just progressed from there. Every time we would upgrade something she would get better and better scores.”
“It’s amazed me to see her transform from just a local 4-H shooter to doing stuff on the local and state level. It’s advanced from there,” said Jason Hancock.
With success has come recognition.
“I’ve even heard people talking about her behind me (in the stands), not knowing that I’m her mom. They know her name and everything. It shocks me that she has that notoriety,” said Misty Hancock. “It still shocks me sometimes to realize the level of archer that she is because to me, she’s my daughter.”
Keys to success
Cassie’s success is a combination of natural ability and hard work, according to Jason Hancock.
“It started out that she had a natural form. They didn’t have to work on her too much on the form issue. That came really easy to her,” he said. “She practices a couple of hours every day and she has always strived to do the best she could do. She’s put her heart and soul into it.”
Page 2 of 3 - Among those taking note of Cassie’s dedication is Butch Herold, owner of Butch’s Sports World.
“She’s been shooting with us since the very beginning. She’s come right along. She works hard at it. She practices a lot and puts a lot of time in it. She’s doing well,” he said.
In addition to her natural ability and willingness to practice, Cassie also possesses a competitive spirit.
“The first year I go to a shoot and I get third or fourth or something, it gives me a strong drive to go back and get first and practice a lot to get there,” said the eighth grader.
Allowing their daughter to compete in tournaments around the country takes a commitment by her parents.
“If there’s a shoot she wants to go to we will try to do everything in our power to make sure she gets to go to it,” said Jason Hancock. “Travel nowadays (is expensive) with gas and airline tickets, and some of these (hotel) rooms are $150 or $160 a night. You can get $1,000 or $1,500 wrapped up in a weekend pretty easy.”
To help defray the expenses the Hancocks have sought sponsorships in behalf of Cassie.
“That’s allowed her to go to some of these other shoots that normally we probably wouldn’t go to,” said Jason Hancock.
“We make sure everything that is donated to her stays in her account and is used just for her expenses,” said Misty Hancock.
In addition to travel expenses, there’s school work that must be factored in.
“When we were going to Las Vegas she had four days of assignments to get done,” explained Misty Hancock. “She worked on homework all the way to Kansas City (airport) because she did not want to pack those bags to Las Vegas with her books in them. She got all her homework done by the time we got to Kansas City and left them (school books) in the car.”
Cassie’s future in archery is filled with possibilities.
“She wants to go pro. She had talked at one point about the Olympics. That could be a possibility,” said Jason Hancock. “Of the goals that are within her reach right now, she’s wanting to make it on the state 4-H team that goes to nationals every year. She has a very good chance of that.”
“She would love to shoot in the Olympics,” said Misty Hancock, noting it will require a change of bow styles. “Eventually I would love for her to turn pro, but that would be when she’s older. We’re going to stay with her shooting in her youth classes until she’s probably out of high school. We’ll probably not let her turn pro until then, if she chooses to. She loves to shoot. Of course it’s all up to her.”
Page 3 of 3 - “I would like to place first at Vegas and eventually go to the Olympics. I watch the Olympics sometimes and from what I’ve seen those people are really good and they have that drive to get there,” said Cassie.
One object Cassie has is to go bow hunting.
“I only shoot targets right now, but I really want to hunt,” she said. “I would like to shoot at deer because most of my friends have gone deer hunting and I’m kind of jealous of them.”
The fact her daughter wants to go hunting did not come as a surprise to Jason Hancock.
“She’s been on to me for the last year to take her bow hunting,” he said. “It’s just getting the time to go out and do it. It’s the hardest part. That’s my fault because we just haven’t done it.”
Cassie’s prowess as an archer is a point of interest among her classmates and friends.
“It’s a topic that comes up quite frequently. They think that it’s really cool. They’re some of my biggest cheerleaders,” she said.
Truth be told, Cassie hopes some of her female friends will take up the sport.
“I’d like to get more girls involved in it. The last one (tournament) I went to there were only four girls overall in the whole thing,” she said.
While a headliner, Cassie is just one of several young and very talented local archers.
“We’re really proud of our kids and what they do,” said Herold. “We have a lot of up and comers. They all work hard and their parents really back them.”