Otter takes second at Vegas Shoot: Atascadero freshman wins 750$ scholarship

ATASCADERO — This past weekend Atascadero freshman Bella Otter competed in the world famous Vegas Shoot where she not only shot her personal best but also placed higher than she ever imagined.

The Vegas Shoot is not for rifles or for pistols or even for shotguns. This shooting contest was made for archers. Otter is one of the top archers in the entire nation with a compound bow, but her love of shiskabobbing hay bales with an arrow started long ago, at a Girls Scouts camp.

“I went to this Girl Scouts camp,” Otter said.  “It was just this super little, cheesy girl scout camp with my little troop and one of the activities was archery.”

The girls in the troop all lined up to take aim at the hay bales that had giant red balloons taped to the middle, just a few feet away from where they stood.

“I remember being the first one in my troop to pop the balloon,” Otter said with a smile. Fast forward two years and Otter, now in the fourth grade, had a bow at the top of her Christmas list.

“All I wanted was a bow for Christmas,” Otter said. “I would always doodle about it and talk to my friends about it.”

Christmas morning came and her wish had been granted. Excited to try out her new toy, Otter headed outside to shoot her first arrow with her new bow.

“Fun fact — the very first arrow I shot again, I was standing like five feet away from the target, I missed the entire bale completely,” Otter said through a sheepish smile.

Otter has now been practicing indoor archery for four years and practices at Central Coast Archery as part of their Junior Olympic Archery Development Team. As she continued to improve, her goals and aspirations rose. In November, she upped her training regimen from around one hour of shooting a week to five as she prepared for the upcoming indoor season. Otter started shooting at least 50 arrows every day after school before starting things like her homework or chores.

In January, Otter entered a state tournament in Tulare and took first place, cementing the fact that she could not only shoot with the best but is one of the best.

What started as a hobby for her has slowly become an activity the whole family participates in and enjoys.

“Part of the reward is that I started doing it, and then I got my dad to do it,” Otter said. “Then my grandpa, then my uncle and my sister and now all of us have this thing that we get to do together.”

All the hard work and practice led up to the third weekend in February and the Vegas Shoot. There were around 3,500 archers participating in the tournament, 400 of which were kids under the age of 18 and of those about 100 were shooting against Otter. It was at this time, lined up side-by-side in a giant room filled with targets and the world's best archers, that she shot her very best.

On the first day, she shot a 297, her personal best at the time, meaning she only shot three nines out of her 30-arrow quiver. The tournament had an app that would automatically update the shooters on their scores and, more importantly, on their standings.

“My coaches always taught me not to worry about the scores, just worry about one arrow at a time,” Otter said. So when her teammates asked if she wanted to see her score she politely declined. They asked her again and told her that she would be happy with it, but again, she declined and tried to stay focused.

“I was really hoping, like, hoping!” she said. “Top 15 barely. I thought it would be so cool if I got that.”

After talking with her dad, Otter decided it was best to check her score because if she didn’t someone would undoubtedly tell her.

“I didn’t even believe it at first,” Otter said. She was ranked No. 1. All the hard work and endless hours of shooting had paid off, but with great success came nerves. On the second day, Otter shot a 291 bringing her total score to 588 out of 600, tied for first. After going to the tiebreaker it was decided that Otter finished in second place by the narrowest of margins.

By placing second in the tournament, she won a $750 educational scholarship and the opportunity to stand on the podium in front of thousands of fans representing her family, her city, and her gym.

As of now, the Olympics don't allow compound bows, but there have been talks that they are considering adding a division. If they do, Otter says that she would be very interested, but for the time being she will have to set her sights on a World Cup.


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