Makenzie Weatherspoon spent the first few days of school across an ocean, a compound bow in her hand, shooting in a royal courtyard in Madrid. And while most of her classmates were turning in their first assignments, she was crying on a podium with her teammates.
“We’re on the podium with our gold medals and the national anthem in the background, and you think about how much work you put into this, because there is a lot,” Makenzie said. “That’s a lot of hours and time there, and a lot of arrows shot.”
Makenzie is a 15-year-old sophomore at Lehi High School, and now, a world champion. She took home a gold and a silver medal last month at the 2019 World Archery Youth Championships in Spain, where she joined a total of 585 athletes representing 61 countries in her first international tournament.
“It’s basically the compound Olympics,” said Scott Weatherspoon, Makenzie’s father.
Makenzie began shooting bows at the age of four after Scott, a bow hunter, started taking her and her sister to the archery range.
“Scott wanted something that he could do with his girls, and he wasn’t going to do ballet or tumbling, so I guess archery is it,” said Amy Weatherspoon, Makenzie’s mother.
Makenzie did make a cheerleading team, but didn’t want to be thrown into the air and decided to focus on archery, instead.
She started in the Junior Olympic Archery Development program and dedicated herself last fall to increasing the amount of time she spends shooting. She’s at a range at least six days a week for a handful of hours a day.
She used to be one of the few women in the sport, until The Hunger Games exploded in popularity and there was an influx of women into the sport.
Makenzie had to rank as one of the top three females in the nation in her age division in order to make the Spain team. She’s spent the year crisscrossing the country in order to attend different tournaments, all with her eyes on Spain.
She returned home in Lehi to find firetrucks blaring their sirens in her honor.
“It’s nice not to be overlooked,” Scott Weatherspoon said. “Here you have somebody who is competing and training just as hard as any other sport there is, and is finally getting recognized for all the hard work she has done.”
Her father has been her coach since the beginning. His job sends him around the world, where he researches from hotel rooms to give her new tips when he comes home.
“I definitely couldn’t be anywhere near this level without him and all of his knowledge,” Makenzie said.
Although Makenzie shoots records at practice, she’s still working to overcome the mental aspect of the sport at competitions.
“She gets in the way of herself,” Scott Weatherspoon said. “When she finally figures out how to overcome being nervous to shoot against somebody else, or just to be herself, she is going to be amazing.”
Makenzie’s mother said her daughter is constantly being underestimated for her age and size. They were at the Larry H. Miller Utah Summer Games in Cedar City for a team tournament when Amy Weatherspoon heard two competitors complaining about having a small girl on their team. That stopped after they watched Makenzie shoot.
Amy Weatherspoon said she turned around and told them not to judge a book by its cover.
“She shot better than both of them did,” Amy Weatherspoon said. “I love to hear people be like, ‘Oh my gosh. Look at her. She’s so little and look at how well she shoots.’”