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Civil Rights News | March 7, 2024

Taking Aim at a Dream

By Patrick Ferraris, Civil Rights Directorate

In the stillness of an indoor archery range, bows are drawn and eyes are fixed, waiting for one pivotal moment: the release of an arrow. The sharp zing as it sails comes only after the long-drawn inhale of a taut bowstring, poised to find its mark on a target face 18 meters away. The stakes are palpable, as is the power in one competitor’s stance as she prepares for her shot on a national stage. For her, however, the bullseye is not merely a chance to earn a USA Archery National title, but the culmination of a decade’s long journey. She breathes through the tension of the bow and releases her arrow.

Jamie McCarrison, Equal Employment Manager, Civil Rights Directorate, Coast Guard Yard, first discovered her passion for archery as a child, and her interest in the sport was nurtured by her parents' own fondness for it. "My parents shot archery and, when I was around 8 or 9, my dad taught me about the sport and how to shoot," she recalls. The sport gave McCarrison something to look forward to and she relished in the thrill of competition it offered. “My parents would take me to participate in tournaments and always supported me."

Like many childhood hobbies, however, archery soon took a backseat to other interests, and it wasn’t until high school that McCarrison reconnected with her love for the sport. Seeking to find an outlet for her active nature, the young McCarrison attended tryouts for several school sporting teams but found herself unsuccessful in making the cut for any of them. By chance, she found a flier in the school’s cafeteria for the Empire State Games, an Olympic-style amateur sporting competition in New York. “Archery was the first sport listed,” she reminisced. “I decided that after school I would go home and ask my parents if I could start shooting again. I wanted to make it into the games.”

Here, McCarrison shone. Her hard work earned her not only a competing spot in the games, but a top-tier performance where she won the bronze medal. This competition also awoke her love for archery where she would continue to shoot competitively from the ages of 16 to 23 until she put a pause on the sport.

Just as in her youth, though, her passion for archery merely slumbered. “Personally, I had hoped and dreamed from the age of 16 that I would win a national tournament,” McCarrison remembers. “I wasn’t ready to give up on that.” She returned to the bow, this time in August of 2021. “I pulled my bow back out and started shooting again, hoping to achieve that dream.”

Now, archery has become more a devotion than a hobby, where she prepares meticulously, both physically and mentally, often practicing up to six days a week with a coach, honing her skills in the Recurve discipline of archery. Recurve refers to a traditional style named for the type of bow used. A recurve bow curves away from the archer when unstrung, requiring an ample degree of muscle strength when pulling the bow string to force the bow into position. That strength must be held, wrought with tension, until the arrow is manually released by relaxing fingers. The discipline comprises strength, form, and a degree of technique unseen in other disciplines of the sport.

“I have shot thousands of arrows, participated in thousands of tournaments, and have had some amazing days of shooting. There are endless memories,” she shares. However, that one dream continued to elude her. “It seemed like I was never meant to win a national tournament.”

But McCarrison is nothing if not dedicated. She did not forget archery for all those years before returning to the sport, and she did not forget her dream, even when it seemed out of reach. At the 2024 USA Archery Indoor Nationals tournament in Harrisonburg Virginia, Feb 23-25, the pinnacle of her archery career thus far awaited. Competing in the master’s division, where competitors must be over the age of 50, she prepared to face a field teeming with veteran shooters.

McCarrison shot 60 arrows over two days, each bearing the weight of her aspirations. In the first round, she finished with a score of 545 out of a possible 600 points. “When I got to the second round of shooting, I was only 2 points away from my personal best,” she stated. As she stepped up to complete her last section of shots, she felt the bow grow tight between her hand, and relaxed her fingers with a final exhale.

Jamie McCarrison poses in front of her target with 3 arrows in the yellow bullseye.
Jamie McCarrison, Equal Employment Manager, Civil Rights Directorate, poses next to her target (top) at the USA Archery Indoor Nationals tournament, held February 23-25, 2024 in Harrisonburg, Virginia. In this section of shooting, McCarrison hit all three shots on the 10 adding up to 30 points, the perfect score. McCarrison received the gold medal for winning the Master’s division at the regional level, and the result also meant she won at the national level as well. (USCG Courtesy Photo)

Her arrow hit the target and marked a dream realized, although she didn’t know it yet. A testament to years of dedication and perseverance, and a beacon of passion and personal joy that had been with McCarrison since that first shooting lesson at 8 years old. She completed the second round with a score of 554 out of 600, giving her an overall score of 1099 out of 1200 possible points.

“After I shot my last section, I let myself pull up the scores. I felt the score that I had was competitive for my division but didn’t know what the results were and thought I could get third place,” she claimed. “It occurred to me that my last section wasn’t posted yet. I did the math and then I realized that I won. It was one of the greatest feelings ever.” Out of 693 female recurve archers competing in the tournament, including those outside of the master’s division, McCarrison finished 49th.

“I won not just as the regional winner, but for the whole country,” she stated. “My mind was rushing and one of the first things I thought about was all those who had supported me to get me in this position.”

In her victory, McCarrison has found not just personal fulfillment, but a reminder of the limitless potential within her—to persevere, to overcome, and ultimately, to triumph. She now carries the fulfillment of a lifelong aspiration within herself and continues to look forward. Next, she takes aim at a new bullseye: Representing her country on the USA National Archery team in the Master’s Division. To reach this next goal, McCarrison will have to earn points from upcoming national level tournaments which she plans to compete for in places like Florida, Ohio, and Texas.

While she reflects on her journey, her words echo with conviction: “When I shoot, I remind myself to never give up. I keep focused on each shot, and each arrow I release reminds me to never give up on my dreams." The essence of her journey is found there, in the transition from dreamer to champion.