To truly appreciate St. Croix Central senior Anna Gunderson's unique skills, you might want to invest a couple hours watching "The Hunger Games," paying special attention to the story's principal heroine and archer extraordinaire, Katniss Everdeen.
Everdeen was Gunderson's pick when asked to compare herself to a fictional character and why not, Gunderson has amassed an impressive collection of ribbons and trophies while building her resume as a national caliber competitor as a member of USA Archery.
Before diving deeper into Anna's world as an archer, let's get to know the girl behind the bow a little better.
Gunderson graduated early, in January, because she could, but mostly to compete at state and national level archery events around the country. But before stringing up her bow and hitting the road, Gunderson gave credit to choir teacher Sara Route and agriculture teacher Gretchen Rozeboom.
"I had a lot of classes with Mrs. Rozeboom my last two years or so and she was somebody I could easily talk to. She was always super nice to me. I really enjoyed her classes," said Gunderson.
When asked whether she preferred singing or dancing, Gunderson chose singing. That might have to do with her many years singing in her church choir or with the influence of Route.
"I was pretty close to my choir teacher ... my freshman and sophomore year," said Gunderson.
Excelling in a sport, especially against elite competition is usually at least in part a reflection of coaching. That is true for Gunderson, who outside of school and her folks, has benefited from the mentorship and advice of two archery coaches. Dan Hastings and John Landreth. Hastings, a level 3 USA Archery Coach, became a part of Gunderson's team when her father Mike went looking for advanced coaching for Gunderson and her brother Ryan.
Hastings works at A-1 Archery in Hudson, Gunderson's home range, as does Landreth. Gunderson has taken Landreth's advice to heart and it has paid off in ways outside of archery.
"Something John Landreth, one of the managers here at A-1, always told me at competitions, 'In with the good, out with the bad,' to kind of clear my head mentally. I've found it applies to more than archery," said Gunderson.
This fall, Gunderson is planning to move out and enroll at UW River Falls. Although UWRF does not have an archery program, she is not ruling out trying to start one up. In the meantime, Gunderson's challenge will be to figure out how to balance tournament time with her pursuit of a degree in English.
"I want to major in journalism and English. They are subjects that have piqued my interest and English has always been my favorite subject," said Gunderson.
Gunderson hopes to gain similar benefits from her college experience as from her archery experience.
"I am looking forward to making new memories, relationships and connections to maintain throughout the rest of my life," said Gunderson.
Forced to pick between her parents and her pet dog, Anna went for the brownie points and said she would miss her parents the most when she went away to school.
"I don't want to say ... probably my parents but I'm going to miss my dog a lot too. She's a close second," said Gunderson.
According to Gunderson, both of her parents are good cooks, but the aroma that will lure her back home on weekends is her father's steak and grilled potatoes.
Hopefully that steak is accompanied by a tall glass of Sprite, Gunderson's kryptonite.
"I drink a lot of Sprite," said Gunderson.
If you checked out Gunderson's earbuds you might hear "Honestly" by Hippo Campus.
"I like the alternative rock kind of thing. I listen to a lot of Hippo Campus, an indie rock band out of St. Paul. I also like the Walters. It's like one or two songs form a bunch of different artists, but those are two of my favorites," said Gunderson.
As for her life online, Gunderson keeps a low profile, just enough Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch and a little Buzz Feed to stay informed.
"I read articles from the New York Times once in awhile and Buzz Feed, that's really it," said Gunderson.
Gunderson said she plans to vote in 2020 but reserved judgement on President Trump because of the strong feelings on both sides of the family.
On the little screen, Gunderson is addicted to reruns of the "The Office," while on the big screen her favorite flix include "The Princess Bride," "Wayne's World," "Dumb and Dumber "and, "I do like Tommy Boy."
When it comes to social justice and big issues that concern her, Gunderson is wrestling with climate change and clean air.
"I am mainly intrigued by the issues around global warming and mass extinction. Our past and future actions will shape a reality that could be our future," she said.
Gunderson believes the one thing everyone should have regardless of cost is clean air.
"I'm concerned about people breathing in contaminated air every day in cities like Houston or Los Angeles. Clean air is a great way to clear someone's mind and encourage them to be more productive," said Gunderson.
If Gunderson could ask one big question ...
"My one big question is 'why?' I believe it leads to the reasoning behind everything," said Gunderson.
Okay. When asked about something she did not understand about herself, Gunderson shared a why moment.
"I don't understand why I hate exercise so much. Isn't it supposed to be good for me?" puzzled Gunderson.
Gunderson characterized herself as reliable, honest and caring. Her heroes? Her parents.
"My parents inspire me to be better every day. Their hard work, dedication and confidence is something everyone should admire."
Gunderson is clearly "into" archery. During the interview, she sat with her bow and quiver. It was also clear archery was something she shared with her father.
As a skilled archer, Gunderson embraces competition. She finds herself on the road a number of weekends out of the year with some events keeping her away from home for up to six days at a stretch, no small commitment. USA Archery sanctions competitions across the country at the local, state, regional and national levels.
Gunderson prefers to shoot a compound bow. USA Archery promotes competition for men and women of all ages in recurve and barebow as well as compound bow.
Although making an Olympic team is something USA Archery can facilitate as an opportunity, it would require Gunderson to switch to a recurve bow, and she likes her compound bow a lot.
Gunderson also prefers target shooting as opposed to hunting, field or 3-D shooting. She has competed in a number of different competition formats including head-to-head. Virtual tournaments are also available. Winners are determined by a point scoring system.
Gunderson's skills have grown over the years to the point where she frequently works with younger archers at the range helping them improve their skills.
Gunderson lights up when she talks about competing though she admits she still gets nervous, but the real benefit of mastering the skill of a compound bow has been the confidence and learning how to set and achieve goals, understanding the discipline and dedication it requires.
"I love the friendly but intense competition, the relationships I have made with people from all over the country and the knowledge I have gained that has helped me beyond the range into day to day life," said Gunderson.