Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   



Texas Trailblazers

The Archery Girl

When your dad’s the archery coach, a bow finds its way into your hands at a young age. J. Mariana Torres-DeLine might have preferred to play video games in fourth grade, but she also wanted to spend time with her dad, who loved sports. Little did she know that they were about to embark on a new pastime that would consume them both.

Jim DeLine, an Austin physical education teacher, implemented the National Archery in Schools Program at Highland Park Elementary. Young Mariana started shooting with him, forming new teams at the middle school and high school levels as she aged.

Mariana blossomed from being “Coach DeLine’s daughter” to “The Archery Girl” at McCallum High School. Hours of practice carried Mariana to honors as one of the top 100 Texas high school archers her freshman year, but it was the camaraderie of the team that kept her passion burning. Her notoriety grew when her quinceañera photo with her beloved Genesis bow, named Nightshade, hit social media.

How does a high school freshman get other students motivated to shoot? Mariana says she used the school’s open house to recruit what she considered prime archery team candidates — the nerds, kids who might not be interested in other sports.

“Archery is more of a mental sport than a physical sport; it’s like playing chess against yourself,” Mariana says. “Anyone can do this sport. You don’t have to be quick or fast or strong.”

COVID wreaked havoc in the lives of high school archers, canceling opportunities at state meets for the past few years. Mariana found herself adapting when dreams didn’t work out as planned and found her calling as a teacher of beginning students at Central Texas Archery while she takes a gap semester after graduation.

“There’s something powerful about shooting a bow,” Mariana says about watching the face of a student who gets hooked on the sport after a good shot.

Mariana laughingly tamps down the video game dreams of her young students when they try to emulate the characters’ bad form, like that of Link, the archer in the Legend of Zelda, Mariana’s current obsession.

“I’ll ask a kid, ‘You play video games? You’re not a video game character. Stop it. It doesn’t work like that. Keep that hand to your face.’”

In a perfect circle, like the ones on her target, Mariana presented her dad with NASP’s top honor, 2021 Coach of the Year, just as she begins her trailblazing journey teaching kids to stay on target. Find out more at tpwd.texas.gov/nasp.

 Chase Fountain | TPWD

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