As the final horn sounded inside Spooky Nook Sports on Friday, Casey Kaufhold walked up to the target to remove the last of her arrows.
Tucking them into her quiver, she waded through the multitude of competitors and spectators gathered to watch the opening round of the 2019 Lancaster Archery Classic to report her score before picking up her bow and greeting a few friends.
“Today was about an average day, not above and not below,” Kaufhold said. “But I had a lot of fun seeing people I haven’t seen in awhile.”
While she might have considered her performance just “average” in the tournament’s qualifying round Friday afternoon, the final scoreboard showed something different — the 14-year-old sitting atop the standings in the women’s recurve division.
Averaging 10 points an arrow after firing 60 arrows from a distance of 18 meters, Kaufhold’s score of 604 put her 13 points ahead of the competition.
Looking down from the top of the leaderboard has become pretty familiar for Kaufhold, who’s also had a pretty good excuse for being out of touch with folks over the last few months.
Just over a week ago, Kaufhold was in France, competing at the Nimes Archery Tournament, the fourth leg of the Indoor World Cup. She advanced all the way to the gold medal match, eventually losing to Korean archer Kang Chae, who holds the outdoor world record.
Two months earlier, Kaufhold made her senior World Cup debut. Not only did she win gold at the World Archery Indoor World Series GT Open in Luxembourg, but she also broke a world record in the 17-and-under age group with a qualifying score of 589 out of a possible 600.
But Kaufhold isn’t competing against fellow 14-year-olds, or even 17-year-olds. Instead, she’s jumped three age groups into the Senior Women’s division, with her eye on the 2020 Olympics. That means shooting from an even farther distance — 70 meters outside — and competing against a group of more experienced archers, including U.S. Olympian Mackenzie Brown.
“It would mean the world,” Kaufhold said of possibly being named to the Olympic team. “It’s been my dream since I was like 8 years old, so it would mean so much to me and it would be the greatest experience I could ask for.”
Kaufhold’s love of archery started when she was about 2 years old, when her parents, Rob and Carole Kaufhold, who own Lancaster Archery Supply, first put a bow in her hands.
“As soon as I was able to actually focus and hold a bow,” Kaufhold said laughingly of her introduction to archery. “I started shooting in the backyard for fun and it just went from there. I got serious and started competing when I was 8, and I fell in love with it and started practicing more and more.”
Her practice schedule has now turned into shooting between 200 and 300 arrows a day, every day, in addition to spending time in the gym. That, plus a travel schedule that’s sent her across the country and into Europe has, admittedly, made it a little tougher to be a typical high school freshman.
Just two weeks ago, Kaufhold switched to cyber school through Conestoga Valley, allowing her more flexibility as the World Cup schedule intersects with the upcoming U.S. Olympic trials.
Each country can send up to three male and three female archers to the Olympics, but must first earn those spots. The U.S. only qualified for one female spot last year, which went to Brown.
The road to Tokyo starts just weeks after Kaufhold’s 15th birthday, with trials running from the end of March through September. With her shooting over the last year, that dream is looking even closer to a reality.
While expectations are high for Kaufhold’s Olympic dreams, they’re also high for her performance at the Lancaster Archery Classic. Competition at the tournament resumed at 8 on Saturday morning with the top 16 qualifiers facing off in elimination matches before the finals started at 8 a.m. Sunday.
Kaufhold reached the championship match the last two years, losing to Brown both times. This year, she’s got her eyes on the top spot, and putting in the work to get recognition on the international stage.
“It’s kind of crazy to think about, but I’ve been working so hard at it and I’m glad to see it paying off,” Kaufhold said. “To be able to shoot on the stage with the women who have inspired me for years and that I’ve been looking up to — it’s just really cool to share that experience with everyone.”