How Casey Kaufhold Rose To Archery Stardom At Age 13 And Shot A Higher Score Than Any American Ever

By Alex Abrams | Aug. 22, 2018, 1:46 p.m. (ET)

Casey Kaufhold competes at the U.S. National Indoor Championships Final on March 9, 2018 in Cincinnati.

 

Casey Kaufhold makes her own jewelry, twisting parachute cord into bracelets and using thin string for rings.

She wears one of her newest pieces of jewelry on an index finger — a maroon-and-white-striped ring that she made this summer. The high school freshman has no plans to take the ring off anytime soon.

“I just like the way it looks,” Kaufhold said, “and it’s just something cool for me to express myself with other than archery.”

Much of her identity has been associated with archery. 

Growing up next door to her parents’ archery supply store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Kaufhold took up the family tradition and started shooting a bow when she was 2-3 years old.

However, with her homemade jewelry and her fingernails painted all sorts of colors, the teenager has found a way to showcase her artistic side while breaking records and beating archers older than her.

Kaufhold is only 14, and if she continues her meteoric rise in the sport, she could compete at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 not long after her 16th birthday.

“I think she has a lot of potential,” said Mackenzie Brown, who was the only American women’s archer to qualify for the Rio Games in 2016. “She is someone who is very well-spoken for as young as she is.”

Brown has known Kaufhold’s father, Rob, for years. Whenever they spoke, he would tell Brown about how hard his daughter was training to become a more consistent archer. 

In late February — only a few days before her 14th birthday on March 6 — Kaufhold shot the highest score of any woman in U.S. history at any age.

With her family watching as her hometown of Lancaster hosted the U.S. National Indoor Championships, Kaufhold broke the senior, junior and cadet national records with a score of 1,162 out of 1,200.

“The shots that day were feeling really good, and I was going into it confident,” Kaufhold said. “I knew going into it that I had a really good chance of beating the record that day.”

 

Casey Kaufhold and Mackenzie Brown (R) pose for a photo together at the U.S. National Indoor Championships Final on March 9, 2018 in Cincinnati. 

 

The teenager felt pressure heading into the national championships, even though there was some comfort that came with it being held at the range where she shoots every day during the indoor season. 

As soon as Kaufhold broke the national records and let her last bow fly, she felt an incredible sense of relief and everything inside her “let go.”

“To me, I knew I could do it. But if I didn’t do it, I wasn’t going to be devastated,” Kaufhold said. “I would be a little sad if I didn’t (break the record), but I still would have been happy just to be able to shoot at the national competition.”

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Brown said she wasn’t surprised by Kaufhold’s record-breaking performance at age 13. 

Brown has been a mentor to Kaufhold for years, even offering tips to her now teenage competitor. Earlier this month, Kaufhold edged Brown by one point to win the women’s recurve division at the U.S. Open in Dublin, Ohio.

“I think both Casey and I are a testament … that your age doesn’t really matter,” said Brown, who competed for a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team when she was 16. 

“It matters how hard you work and the talent that you’ve got.”

Kaufhold’s parents taught her how to shoot as a kid, and she started competing with an Olympic recurve bow at age 8. Her older brother, Connor, also competes, and they’ve developed a bit of a sibling rivalry.

Their weekly archery shootouts in the backyard have been dubbed the Kaufhold Cup.

“I would say I win most of them just because I have a lot of experience with matches and all,” Kaufhold said, “but he does win one every so often.”

 

Casey Kaufhold poses for a photo at the 134th U.S. National Target Championships on Aug. 9, 2018 in Dublin, Ohio. 

 

Along the way, Kaufhold has felt comfortable talking to Brown. The piece of advice that has stuck most with Kaufhold came when she was around 11 and competing in one of her first national competitions. 

Brown told her to “drop it like it’s hot,” which is something Brown’s coach has said to help her laugh and relax before an event.

“She is a person that never quits,” Kaufhold said of Brown. “I always wanted to be a person like that, like somebody that perseveres through everything and is determined to get what they want and meet the goals that they’ve set for themselves.”

As she prepared for her first day of high school, Kaufhold said she hopes to qualify for multiple Olympics, not just the Tokyo Games. She’s young enough to do it.

Her ultimate goal is to earn an Olympic medal, which would be a nice addition to her jewelry collection. Her fingernails could even be painted red, white and blue for the occasion.   

“I think we have a really bright future ahead, and I think that Tokyo is definitely what we’ve got in our sights,” Brown said. “I think Casey is definitely a key piece in that.” 

Alex Abrams is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.