- Associated Press - Friday, July 21, 2017

TRENTON, Mo. (AP) - Archers refer to the device as a kisser button, and Hannah Persell’s had fallen off.

And just days before the national competition.

True, many who wield a bow do not use a kisser button, a small plastic attachment to the string that provides an anchor point during the draw. The kisser button, pulled back against the archer’s lip, signals consistency. If the anchor point wanders, that spells trouble.

Hannah regarded this as much a mental setback as a physical one. More than half her life, the teenager has pulled on a bowstring. In competitions, she learned that what happens in her head matters as much as what happens with the rest of her body.

“You can either think, ‘Oh, that happened and I’m going to fix it,’ or ‘That happened and that’s why I’m going to do bad,’” she said. “It’s like any sport or competition. You just have to have the right attitude.”

This fix-it formula has worked for the Trenton High School senior, who got her first bow for Christmas at age 7. Now 17, Hannah has competed four times at the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships.

Last month, she took part on the Missouri recurve archery team, which finished first in the nation, the St. Joseph News-Press (https://bit.ly/2vujAZo ) reported.

In addition, Hannah serves as a shooting sports ambassador for 4-H, the 115-year-old youth development organization. With this, she helped emcee the awards ceremony on the final night of the event in Grand Island, Nebraska.

Her first trip to the championships, in 2014, required a different sort of fix. Before Hannah could try out for compound bow team, she broke her arm.

Instead, she earned a place on the hunting skills team, which has a knowledge-based component (wildlife identification, field decision-making) to go with three shooting components, archery, shotgun clays and small-bore rifle.

She finished second overall, about .13 points behind the champion.

“That first year at nationals, that was the game-changer for me,” Hannah said. “I was wanting to try more disciplines, because I wanted to keep going back to nationals.”

In 2015, the teenager competed in small-bore rifles, and the Missouri team finished fifth overall. In 2016, Hannah took part on the muzzleloading rifle team, which finished first nationally.

“Outdoorsy” . that’s how Hannah describes her growing up. Her father, Shane, began taking her hunting as a preschooler. Her mother, Anna, has since 1994 has been a natural resource manager at Missouri state parks.

At each of the family’s stops - Weston Bend, Big Lake, Knob Noster - Hannah furthered her outdoor education. That continues at Crowder State Park, where the Persells live on the grounds.

Hannah joined 4-H at age 8, and she credits the organization with much more than her shooting acumen.

“When I was younger, my mother put me in everything . Girl Scouts, cheerleading, soccer. I thought (4-H) is just another one of those things,” she recalled.

The girl was shy, and a trip to Walmart would become an exercise in avoiding eye contact. “My mom would say, ‘Hannah, you have to talk to these people,’” she recalled. “Now, it’s like the complete opposite. We’ll be walking through some random grocery store and I’ll be talking to some stranger.”

This particular life skill has borne fruit at the national championships, where she had to speak in front of more than 1,000 people at the awards ceremony two weeks ago. It pays off this week as she attends an FFA leadership conference in Washington, D.C.

Last summer, Hannah was one of 30 high school students chosen for the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Agribusiness Academy. Also last year, she got picked to attend the Missouri Youth Civic Leadership Summit, sponsored in part by 4-H.

In all her endeavors, including her plans to study agribusiness marketing after finishing high school next spring, Hannah recognizes that dealing with challenges in archery and firearms competitions can strengthen you for life’s other tests.

“If you go in with the thought process of, ‘I’m going to struggle today,’ you’re going to have difficulty,” the teenager said.

As a philosophy, that seems right on target.


Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, https://www.newspressnow.com

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