Sitting in a morass of self-pity Saturday, reminiscing about lovers past, wondering why that special someone has always just barely managed to sneak by cupid’s arrow, we all questioned why that cute little love-God could not have the aim and persistence of Maggie Adler. Maggie who?
For the past three years, Williams College has kept one of the country’s premier arrow shooters (more specifically known as archers) hidden amongst its masses of giant football bodies and the blur of speedy runners, safe from the mainstream Williamstown press. Meanwhile, Maggie Adler has shot her way into the heart of the archery world.
This March she will be one of three women to represent the United States in the Olympic bow division of the World University Archery Championships, held in the 15,000 seat Taoyuan County Gymnasium in Taoyuan, Taiwan. To qualify for the position, Adler, a junior at Williams College, excelled in inter-collegiate archery tournaments over the past year, earning her a ranking as one of the top three female collegiate archers in the country. This feat, large though it is, does not come close to explaining the height to which she is climbing in the archery hierarchy. “Being chosen as an All-American last year was a great honor,” she said modestly, “but performing well in intercollegiate competitions is not a big goal of mine.” Adler aims higher. “My goal is to make the Olympics.”
Fortunately, this accomplishment is directly within her reach. The summer before her first year at Williams, she made the jump from the junior to the adult archery circuit. The first real adult tournament she entered was the Olympic try-out. Having no idea how she would compete with the adults and merely hoping to get her feet wet in the North East Region Tournament, she shocked her own expectations by ranking in the top twenty and advancing to the Regional Championships. There the twenty best archers from each of four regions across the country compete to make the national finals.
“I had always hoped to make the Olympics, but I never imagined I would be that close.” She would get even closer, finishing in the top sixteen at Regionals, and advancing to the final competition in Long Beach, California where the top eight would make the Olympic training squad. Adler missed two of her first four weeks at Williams to attend; she finished ninth in the nation.
After coming so tragically close to fulfilling a dream after only four years practicing the sport, one would think that Adler would have left Williams, a school that lacks an archery team, in order to hone her blossoming shooting skills. However, she decided that Williams was the best place for her. “I thought about going to a school such as Columbia or Texas A&M which have established archery programs, but in the end I decided that college archery was not that important to me relative to being in an environment I enjoy and getting a good education.”
When she first came to Williamstown, the College demonstrated its support for her sport by offering her practice space in such excellent archery locations as the pool machinery room beneath Chandler, but after her ninth place finish at the Olympic trials, they upgraded their hospitality by giving her a little corridor above the bleachers by the Chandler basketball courts.
“The administration has been as nice to me as I could ask for in cooperating with my training needs. They’ve given me the space in Chandler and time slots in the Field House. I could not expect much more in coming to a school which did not have an archery team.”
Since the Olympic trials, Adler has improved her repertoire of target-piercing skills by practicing almost every day in Chandler (to the delight of the janitor there), and by competing in national and inter-collegiate competitions. The inter-collegiate team she founded and of which she is the only member, managed to place 11th out of 13 teams at the National Collegiate Finals (Adler defeated the three-member teams of two Division 1 schools.)
She also travels to Arizona every chance she can in order to become more well-versed in the Russian style of archery taught to her by her coach Alexander Kirillov, to whom she gives much of the credit for her success. Kirillov, the former Soviet national coach, seems to instill the successful Soviet work ethic on his students at the PSE Shooting School in Tucson.
Adler hopes her hard work will pay off in the form of a spot on the Olympic team in the year 2000. At the moment, she is working on that goal by competing in a circuit of national competitions from which the overall top eight women archers are selected for the U.S. National Team. Members of the National Team, having proven themselves as the top eight archers in the country, have a distinct psychological advantage at the Olympic trials. “Last year I was very close to making the National Team. I was seventh overall, but I had to miss a tournament due to various conflicts. If I could have entered that tournament and performed as I had in the others, I would have been on the team. I think this year will be my year.”
Maggie Adler has developed from a young fourteen year-old archer, experimenting with her bow and arrows on the shooting ranges of Queens, into a likely Olympian training in the hallways of Chandler. As Nagano ’98 comes to a close, we can all look forward to the year 2000 when an Eph’s long-time dream of shooting in the Olympics may lift her from obscurity into the spotlight that this international champion so richly deserves.