Seven years ago, Raegan Bender visited Full Draw Archery near her house, and she says she hasn’t really left.

“When I’m not practicing or traveling, I’m at school or working,” the Millard North senior-to-be said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

All those hours with her Mathews TRX 38 compound bow have paid off. Bender will represent the United States at the youth world tournament in Spain in August after finishing third overall at the youth trials in California last weekend.

This weekend, she’s in Valdosta, Georgia, for an archery camp, and then she will head to a Junior Olympic Archery Development outdoor target nationals tournament in North Carolina.

Although she’s already made the elite traveling team, which competes internationally, everything is about getting to the next level. She’s hoping to continue to make United States teams as she grows older.

It’s been a crazy month of traveling in June, but it’s all helping her improve.

“I wanted to be able to better my shooting process and also improve my mental side of it,” Bender said. “Archery is 99 percent mental.”

Bender said she practices every day and also works part time at Full Draw, where owners Kent and Deb Colgrove and other participants have become family. She also trains long distance with coach Linda Beck from Minnesota.

Bender first used a bow at a horse camp and liked it, prompting that initial visit to Full Draw Archery. She loves teaching, too, and knows those youngsters are watching her progress.

“I want to be able to inspire the kids at Full Draw,” she said. “Hey, you can do this if you keep practicing and have fun with this.”

Bender’s focus on archery has also secured her some college offers. Union and Lindsey Wilson Colleges and University of the Cumberlands — all in Kentucky — are among many that have offered scholarships for scholastic 3D archery.

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Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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