Eight-year-old Conor Franklin, son of David and Amber Franklin, stood by in awe as he observed his uncle using a bow to shoot arrows into a target. At the time, Conor's uncle, Mark Franklin, was practicing archery at the Winnebago shooting range. Conor's eyes lit up as he watched arrow after arrow pierce the target. He knew at that moment that he also wanted to be an archer.
Fast forward five years and the once hopeful eight-year-old is now a World Champion archer for his age bracket.
"He shoots better than most adults," says Franklin's father, David Franklin. "He definitely shoots better than anyone in this room."
Franklin participates in three, sometimes four, competitions throughout the nation each year. Until recently when he turned 13, he was in the 12 and under, or Cub, bracket.
He has participated in upwards of 100 competitions and has a medal to show for each of them, but his biggest accomplishment was placing third in the Iowa State Archery Association national competition in the 12 to 15, or Youth, category.
"My biggest accomplishment would have to be getting third place at the ISAA?because it was my first year in Youth and the other kids were 14, two years older than me," Franklin says.
Moving from the Cub bracket to the Youth bracket, shooters will experience some changes. Now shooting from 20 yards away instead of 10 yards, Franklin had no difficulty in firing a perfect score of 300 at the 2014 ISAA?Championship.
"I?always practice at 20 yards, but when I?shot as a Cub, we only had to shoot from 10 yards. That was probably what helped me the most," Franklin explains.
Though the 2014 ISAA Championship is Franklin's proudest accomplishment, he has triumphed in several other competitions.
In 2013 alone, he placed second at the national convention in Las Vegas, first at the ISAA Championship and he took second place at the World Field Archery Championship in Yankton, S.D.
Once 2014 rolled around, Franklin competed against other kids his age from more than 30 different countries at the?World Field Archery Championship in Yankton.
He walked away as the Grand Champion in his age bracket, but he also achieved the highest score among more than 240 other shooters of all different ages.
"When I'm competing, I try not to think of how my other competitors are doing. I try not to look at their targets, I just try to keep focused and keep my form," Franklin says.
Competition is only one aspect of archery to take into consideration. Franklin spends hours training, practicing and improving his form and focus.
He prefers to practice and compete during the winter months when he can shoot indoors, but that doesn't prevent him from shooting more than 2,000 arrows during the summer to prepare for his winter competitions.
"It's either windy, rainy, hot or there are too many mosquitoes outside," says David Franklin about the unpredictability of shooting outside. "You never know what to expect when you shoot outside."
Between each arrow, Franklin visualizes himself shooting the next arrow into the target.
"It helps because you're confident in yourself that you'll shoot an X the next arrow, but if you don't, you don't get down on yourself for not shooting an X," Franklin says.
Franklin hopes that someday all of his shooting techniques and secrets will pay off.
For the future, he wants to compete in the professional stadium in Las Vegas.
"My goal is to go down into a stadium where all the pros shoot and win and get tons and tons of money!" Franklin laughs.
Eventually, he would also like to try out for the USA Olympic Team. However, the Olympics only accept shooters who use a recurve bow and Franklin uses a compound bow.
"When the Olympics changes their requirements and allows compound bows, there is no doubt he'll try out," David Franklin said.
Though Conor Franklin's goals are definitely attainable, he has set goals for himself for the next year as well.
"I?would like to place in the top three in Vegas," he explains. "At ISAA, I would like to place first or second, and at nationals I want to place in the top three."
Franklin will have the chance to meet his short-term goals come winter when he begins his next round of competitions.