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Miriam Trafford is known as one of the nicest archers you'll meet on the field. But this Louisiana-based archer is also a thoughtful young woman who says challenges in archery have given her humility and strength she didn't know she had.
"It helped my character development. It helped me experience new things, made me humble," she said of a struggle with target panic that almost ended her archery career.
Miriam's fight to shoot again also inspired her to sign up for one of the most rigorous academic programs in the country: Trafford has accepted an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
As for the nominations, a notoriously competitive process? She received nine of them, in the process of applying to three military academies.
This caused no small amount of discussion in the Trafford household: this is a family of World Champions, barebow and recurve archers, who have deep military roots. Charles "Skip" Trafford, Miriam's father, is a retired Colonel. Sisters Rachael and Heather are attending the U.S. Air Force Academy and U.S. Naval Academy, respectively. Charlene, Miriam's mother, just wanted her to choose what would make her happy - and brother Hardy, a top-notch high school football player, hopes to follow in his sisters' footsteps one day.
In the end, the Air Force won.
"I've been raised in a military family, and my parents have always taught me that if you live in this country, you have to serve it," Miriam explained. "I'm very fortunate to have two older sisters who have been my role models. Having them at the Academies influenced me a lot."
Miriam, who began competing in archery at the age of two, sees parallels between archery and life.
She's a softball champion and a track and field standout, but it was archery that brought her to tears of frustration when target panic nearly sidelined her. At the time, Miriam was part of the Junior Dream Team and competing nationally and internationally. She knew she was at a crossroads.
"Before I had target panic, I was shooting really well. And after getting target panic, I realized, 'hey, you have to work really hard at this.' I learned that through motivation and determination, if you work hard enough for whatever you love, you'll become even better at it."
That determination paid off. Miriam went on to earn two international titles last year, winning the World Archery Field Championships and the International Field Archery Association World Championships.
Today, Miriam's focus is getting into shape for the Air Force Academy. She'll be required to run three miles per day, do 50 push-ups in two minutes, 10 pull-ups in two minutes - and 100 sit-ups in 2 minutes. But she says archery has helped with this, too.
"I have to prepare a lot for entering the Academy, because I don't want my physical abilities to hold me back," Miriam explained. "Luckily, archery is ninety percent mental and ten percent physical. So at the Academy, they're going to be working me very hard, but it's going to be a really hard mental game, too."
When we interviewed her at the Gator Cup - her last tournament before entering the Academy - Miriam expressed thanks to her parents and siblings, who have helped her to discover her path, as well as members of the archery community. "I have to thank my coaches and all of my friends who really encouraged me, especially during hard times. Without them, I couldn't have done anything."
As for Miriam's accomplishments, her parents attribute much of her success to the sport of archery.
"When Rachel, Heather and Miriam went into interviews, they already knew who they were," explains Skip. "Half the discussion was about how archery prepared them for the Academy, and the rigors of life there."
He and Charlene note that spending much of her childhood living and traveling abroad helped to prepare Miriam for a life in archery - and beyond. Archery, they said, has helped their children to learn to set goals, and work toward achieving them.
"Archery developed their core character," Skip said. "We wanted to use archery as a means of teaching the kids how to succeed in life, how to pick themselves up. The Academy is going to be incredibly tough. But it's a lot like getting ready for an archery tournament. Coach Hardy Ward used to say that the measure of a champion is not the one who puts the arrow in the middle every time; it's what you do after you miss the target. That's the champion."
Charlene, from a mother's perspective, sees a sport that has taught her children humility, modesty - and a way to realize the strength they have within them.
"They are four individuals, and it's incredible to see them use archery to learn setting priorities and focusing," said Charlene. "As their parents, we are one hundred percent behind them. We've learned so much from archery. In a moment when you've failed somehow - you're down, you didn't shoot so well - in that moment, that's when you find yourself."
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