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By Joe Conroy Special to The Californian
LaNola Pritchard has long dreamt of competing at the Olympics. That dream became a goal nearly 10 years ago, and it’s as clear now as the day it popped in her head.
In July the 17-year-old archer took a huge step toward achieving that goal. Pritchard, who attended Stockdale High School, was accepted to train as a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista.
Training between four and eight hours a day, six days a week, Pritchard was excited to join other Olympic hopefuls, even though it meant moving a couple hundred miles from her hometown.
“It is a very nice facility,” she said, after moving to Chula Vista in late summer. “They have a large field where we can shoot at all the distances. And there’s a nice living area. They’ve got lots of nutritious food for stamina and energy so we can do our training.”
That training, in an effort to make the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, has mostly been shooting at field targets. Weightlifting and running is part of the program as well.
Pritchard’s love of archery started when her dad was given a hunting bow for Christmas in 2000. Soon, she was shooting a compound bow as a 6-year-old.
Two years later, the seed of her Olympic dream was planted. At an archery camp in Colorado, Pritchard saw a photo of Denise Parker in the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea. Parker, then 14, took home a team bronze medal that year.
“I told my dad right then that I wanted to go to the Olympics,” Pritchard said.
In order to give herself the best chance to make the U.S. team, Pritchard switched to the recurve bow, which is used in Olympic competition.
Since then, she’s excelled at the sport, becoming one of the country’s top five female archers invited to the resident athlete program.
“It really started about two years ago when I won (the U.S.) Indoor Nationals tournament,” she said. “I went to a Junior Dream Team Camp and made the team in November of 2010.”
Because she’s still a high schooler, Pritchard is taking classes online through Brigham Young University, another change that she said has taken some getting used to.
“It’s a little different. I’m used to public schooling, but with this I can go at my own pace and do the work whenever and wherever, as long as I have an internet connection,” Pritchard said.
“I take a couple hours each day and I can do it. It’s harder to go to high school and train for the Olympics at the same time.”
And though it was difficult to leave her family to begin her training full-time, it’s a worthwhile pursuit.
At the earliest, Pritchard will know in the fall of 2015 whether she’s achieved her longtime dream or if she’ll have to continue her pursuit.
“That’s when we’ll have trials where we compete for spots in the top 16, then the top 8 and top 3,” she said. “I feel very good about my chances. I need to continue to improve and get better.”