When it comes to archery, Raegan Bender doesn’t just hit the target, she hits the bullseye.

A junior at Millard North, Bender is not only a top archer in the state of Nebraska, but also one of the top eight archers in her age group in the entire country. After winning the cadet division (17 and under) at USA Indoor Nationals in Minnesota, she advanced to the National Indoor Final for compound competition. Only eight archers from across the country advance to the finals, held on March 15 in Cincinnati, Ohio and Bender is one of them.

Despite her tremendous success, Bender has only been practicing archery for six years. The 16-year-old got her first taste of the sport at a horse camp she attended in 2010 and immediately knew she wanted to keep with archery. After joining a Junior Olympic Archery Development program at Full Draw Archery in Omaha, Bender shot her first competition at the Cornhusker State Games in 2013.

“That was when I knew I wanted to compete, that archery was what I wanted to do,” she said.

Since then, Bender has continued to participate in the Cornhusker State Games, along with additional competitions to hone her skills. She practices for the competitions at Full Draw Archery, where she also works as an archery coach. While she tries to get in at least an hour of practice per day, Bender spends much of her time coaching fellow archers.

“It’s something I love to do,” she said. “I love helping the kids and I love helping the adults, it’s just great getting to interact with everyone.”

As a USA certified archery coach, Bender teaches classes for kids from 3-12 years old, holds private lessons for 10-12 year olds and works with adult archers as well. She said the time she spends at the archery range is so enjoyable because of the people she gets to work with.

“Everyone down at the shop has become my family and it’s just amazing how all the people come together for the sport,” Bender said.

While she enjoys coaching archery as well, Bender’s true love is participating in archery competitions such as the Cornhusker State Games. When she participates in the 2019 Games, it will mark Bender’s fifth time shooting in the Games, and she continues to enjoy the event every year.

“Everyone there [at the Games] brings me back every single year, wanting to be around the same people every year,” Bender said.

As she prepares to take on a national competition for the chance to be the best under-17 archer in the country, Bender said she feels some pressure, but is thankful to all the support she has received along the way.

“It really does mean a lot to me, just seeing how hard I have worked to get to this point,” Bender said. “With the little coaching I have had, getting to this point just means so much to me, and all the support I’ve had throughout all of this has been great.”

Registration is currently open for the 2019 Cornhusker State Games. Featuring competition in 70 sports, participants can find more information and register online at our 2019 Sport Listing