From 4-H to five rings

Polk County student shoots for the Olympics

On the outside, it seems as though Ryan Waldman is an average 16-year-old boy from Haines City. However, he is more than just a typical high school student. Ryan is a champion. Member of the Bullseye 4-H Club in Winter Haven, Ryan recently represented Polk County in the Archery Recurve division of the 2014 National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational.

“I do it for the fun of it, the competition— I’ve always been a competitor; it’s just what I love doing,” explains Waldman, who has been shooting competitively for three years. Ryan qualified for Nationals by placing fourth overall at the State 4-H Archery competition back in March. He earned the opportunity to compete in Grand Island, Nebraska, along with three other students from Marion County and other shooting competitors from across the country, at the National competition. As a team, the four Florida shooters placed third overall in the Archery Recurve category. Ryan placed seventh individually in Archery Recurve, out of over 50 students.

“It was a little bit of a surprise. I didn’t think I was going to place seventh,” says Waldman, who also qualified for Nationals last year, but decided to take an extra year to practice and improve his craft. High school students are only allowed to compete in a category one time at Nationals and he wanted to make it count.

There were two archery divisions, along with other categories, like shotgun and air rifle shooting; the two archery categories were Archery Recurve and Compound. While compound bows are equipped with a pulley-like system, a recurve bow is more traditional-looking, one you can catch in movies like The Hunger Games and The Avengers.

“Recurve is what you see in the Olympics,” elaborates Waldman, who chose to shoot recurve partly for that reason. Because what was originally just a recreational past-time has now turned into a possible career venture for Waldman. For Ryan, placing seventh overall in the National Recurve Archery competition is just one notch on the belt; it’s one step closer to the bigger goal… the biggest goal: making it to the Olympics. “My ultimate goal is to compete as an Olympian and win a gold medal,” says Waldman.

This year, Ryan challenged himself to place in the Top Ten at Nationals; since meeting his goal, his next venture is to continue on the path to the Olympics by getting involved with Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD). According to their website, JOAD, which is part of Team USA, helps develop kids and teens into top-notch competitors and progresses them into an advanced level of archery.

“Our goal for him is to offer him the support he needs to reach his goals and, one day, go to the Olympics,” expresses Renee Waldman, Ryan’s mom and co-leader of the Bullseye 4-H Club, which is specifically catered to archery students.

While Ryan has been recognized for his efforts all across the county, he remains grateful, humble, and dedicated to his future. “I’d like to thank my parents, family, coaches, and teammates,” continues Waldman, “but most of all my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

To see the complete list of results from the National 4-H Shooting Sports Invitational, go to and for more information on JOAD, you can read about the program on their website:



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