Have bows, will travel

Monique, left, and Adrianna practice at the Predators Archery

The punk rock attitude helps. Monique and Adrianna Zepeda are
each as accomplished as any All-League athlete at Gilroy High. And
hardly any of their fellow students know it.
Monique, 17, and Adrianna, 15, took a third-place and a
first-place at January’s World Archery Festival in Las Vegas.
The punk rock attitude helps. Monique and Adrianna Zepeda are each as accomplished as any All-League athlete at Gilroy High. And hardly any of their fellow students know it.

Monique, 17, and Adrianna, 15, took a third-place and a first-place at January’s World Archery Festival in Las Vegas. The sisters will travel to Australia next summer to compete with the best junior compound bow archers in the world.

Yet a boy at school thinks what they do is “stupid.”

“When people look at me, they don’t think of archery,” says Adrianna. “I was wearing my archery shirt at school … and my friend was like, ‘You do archery?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ He goes, ‘No you don’t.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, I do.’ He’s like, ‘Oh, that’s so stupid.’

Now decked out in a Sex Pistols T-shirt, Adrianna relates the story in Predators Archery shop on Monterey Street in Gilroy. She and Monique seem amused by the insult, rather than angry over it.

The punk rock attitude helps.

Monique, who competes in the Young Adult Freestyle Unlimited division at archery competitions, was third at Las Vegas with a score of 580/600 and 19 X’s (bull’s eyes). She’s been to the State Indoor Championships three times already – she only picked up a bow three years ago – placing second each time. Adrianna, a Freestyle Limited archer, took first in her Young Adult division in January, scoring a 498/600 with three X’s. She’s been to the State Indoors twice, placed first both times and broke her own state competition record set in 2003 at the most recent event in October.

With targets as far as 18 meters away and near perfection necessary to win on any given day, archery is a sport that requires an almost Zen-like calm. The target isn’t going anywhere (moving target events do exist, and the Zepedas say they’d like to try them out some day), but fingers can slip, elbows can twitch and hearts can flutter. Especially on the biggest stages.

But the Zepeda sisters know how to shut out all the distractions and get into the zone. First, they listen to AC/DC or Led Zeppelin to get pumped up and settle the nerves. Then they find the peaceful place deep inside where true concentration lives.

It’s a place where, as Monique says, “If I really focus, the spot (target) actually gets closer …” much as the baseball seems as big as a softball to a dialed-in batter or the basketball hoop seems twice as big to a shooter on a hot streak.

The punk rock attitude helps.

Practice makes perfect

“(Archery) is a big part of our lives. Besides school, we come here to practice,” says Adrianna, referring to Predators, where the girls work out on the range every day after school lets out. For longer shooting, they go to a range on Mt. Madonna.

“These girls are great,” says Curtis Campisi, co-owner with Mike Pierce and Jim Martinez of Predators. “They’ll probably do 20 tournaments this year. Last year, every tournament they went to, they either placed one, two or three. I don’t think I ever took them anywhere where they didn’t bring home a medal.”

Campisi, a top-ranked competitive archer himself, coaches the Zepedas along with Pierce and Martinez.

Monique and Adrianna stumbled upon archery just a few years ago, thanks to a happy coincidence. Their mother, Norma Heredia, runs Frank’s Barbershop, which just happens to be next door to Predators.

Heredia suggested to her daughters – “We were bored one day,” says Monique – that they check out the archery shop next door to amuse themselves.

A few years later, the pair are exceeding all expectations in the competitive archery world.

“This is just their third year in archery,” says the girls’ sister Selena, 16, who is not an archer. “And they’re already so advanced. Their first trip to Las Vegas was really exciting, because nobody expected them to win.”

Different bows

for different folks

The sisters don’t actually face each other in competition, because they practice different archery disciplines. Monique competes in Freestyle Unlimited, which allows sights on bows and back-tension release, which makes letting go of the bowstring almost systematic.

She’s placed second at the State Indoor Championships twice to the same girl, Samantha Clark.

Monique wants to beat her nemesis … bad.

“I really want to get to her level,” she says. “I’ve been so close. I’ll beat her one of these days.”

Adrianna is the archery artist of the pair. She competes in Freestyle Limited, which doesn’t allow sights. The bowstring must be released with the bare fingers or small finger tabs.

Her scores are always lower than her sister’s, but that’s because Adrianna’s event is that much more difficult.

“Adrianna is doing finger release,” says Campisi.

“It’s much more of an art-form.”

The Zepedas travel to the National Outdoor Field Competition in Redding in the first week of May. There, Monique will have another showdown with Samantha Clark and attempt to notch the perfect score she knows she’s capable of.

Adrianna will try to add to her growing list of first-place finishes, and perhaps set another state record.

Each will bring to Redding a little bit of Gilroy, a little bit of that punk rock cool and a whole lot of archery talent.

The Robin Hood factor

When most people think of archery, images of Robin Hood come to mind. Unlike the legendary English hero, who fought for the innocent with a longbow, the Zepeda sisters compete with compound bows.

But one of the most memorable Robin Hood stories – the time he split an arrow in two to win a contest – actually happens in modern competitions, Monique Zepeda says.

The Zepedas have never actually done it. “We’ve come close,” Monique says. “My bow poundage is kind of light, so the arrow just kind of deflects off or it’ll break the knock (the notch in the arrow’s tail) of it.

“Lots of pros have done it. But then they get mad, because that’s one arrow less.”

Gilroy may be a long way from Sherwood Forest, but Monique does have one more thing in common with Robin Hood. She wants to become a criminal defense attorney, protecting the innocent from wrongful prosecution.