At only age 10, Shaela Halte has become a standout in the sport of archery. But it is not unusual for Shaela to defy expectations, according to her mother, Acacia. She has been doing that for most of her life.
This year, Shaela competed against hundreds of high school students to qualify for the 4-H archery state tournament in Colorado. She surprised many by placing 50th in the state against older, more experienced competitors.
True to form, Shaela immediately began planning how she would place even higher next year, Acacia said.
When Acacia was pregnant with Shaela, doctors told Acacia she was experiencing complications that could threaten the pregnancy.
“Three times while I was carrying her, they told me she (wouldn’t make it),” Acacia said.
Shaela also had breathing difficulties following her birth. Doctors told Acacia that her daughter might have lifelong health complications.
“They said, ‘She’s always going to be behind,’” Acacia recalled. “They told me she would never read. In second grade, she was at a ninth-grade level. They had all these things they said and everything they told me (didn’t turn out to be true).”
With a child who has been defying the odds since her birth, sometimes Acacia must appreciate the daily challenges of raising a pre-teen.
“It’s so funny because sometimes she gets so obstinate with me and I can’t get mad because that is what has kept this kid going,” Acacia said. “You can’t get mad because she’s defied the odds.”
Archery one of many interests
Shaela became interested in archery about three years ago. The 4-H archery competitions begin at a local level before competitors can qualify for the county competition. County qualifiers then proceed to state.
“She was so naturally drawn to it,” Acacia said. “It was really cool because I wasn’t expecting that.”
Most of the competition shooting uses a paper target. Shaela also enjoys shooting decoys. She can hit an elk decoy at 50 yards, a fairly long shot for someone her age.
Shaela was excited to use the 3-D targets, one of which resembled an alligator.
“She likes to shoot at the paper targets, but it’s not nearly as fun to her as the 3-D target,” Acacia said. “There was a kid next to her that previously shot at nationals, and they just could not get these alligators. She just walks up there, all confident, and got both of them.”
Shaela still gets nervous before competing but many of the other competitors have taken her under their wing.
“At state, she was between these two (older) boys, and you would have thought she was their little sister,” Acacia said.
The next level of competition will temporarily have to wait. Shaela will not be able to compete at 4-H’s national tournament until she is 14. But she plans to practice as much as she can to prepare for that day.
“It’s exciting,” Acacia said. “We’re really proud.”
Shaela’s team has organized practices, but she likes to devote her own time to archery as well. Her parents recently surprised her with a pass to a local archery range, where she can continue to refine her technique.
With Shaela’s devotion to the sport and her unexpected success, Acacia and her husband wouldn’t rule out one day seeing their daughter take her skills to the ultimate competition level, the summer Olympics.
“She would love that. It would be amazing to see,” Acacia said. “We’ve had people asking, because she’s so young and doing so well, if we had considered it. We’ll have to see.”
For now, the family is focused on school and encouraging Shaela to explore more activities.
“She’s doing really well. She writes songs and she loves tennis too. She saw someone playing tennis and said, ‘I’m going to do that.’ I said, ‘Whoa, hold on,’” Acacia laughed.
Shaela is an avid reader and recently completed reading 4,000 pages in a single month. Her favorite authors include Jules Verne and Emily Dickinson and one of her favorite books is Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
Acacia said her daughter has come a long way and the family is excited to see what the accomplished pre-teen will do next.
“Her pre-K teacher told me she was one of the most ‘delightfully determined young children she had ever met,’” Acacia laughed.
The family has a history with archery. Acacia’s grandfather used to make his own bows. Acacia’s father plans to show his granddaughter Shaela how to make a leather armguard.
Acacia enjoys beadwork in her spare time and recently made a special quiver for Shaela, with beadwork, that Shaela treasures.
Acacia was recently asked to instruct Shaela’s 4-H group in leatherwork and beadwork.
“The (club leader) mentioned they didn’t know anyone who could instruct on Native American beadwork and Shaela said, ‘My mom could,’” Acacia said.
Acacia said her husband often jokes that Shaela got her talent from his side of the family, but Acacia said she is certain it is the family’s Potawatomi ancestors that passed the skill along.
Joking aside, “he is a very proud papa,” Acacia said.
The 4-H archery season ended in August and the family is enjoying some down time before archery begins again in January. They plan to enjoy camping and hiking in the meantime.
However, Acacia isn’t planning on too much downtime because Shaela already has her eyes on a new bow, she laughed.
4-H is America’s largest youth development organization, having supported almost 6 million youth across the country. The Colorado program has more than 100,000 annual participants, who are learning to become confident, independent, resilient and compassionate leaders, according to the website. Programs cover topics such as health, science, agriculture and citizenship. 4-H focuses on head, hands, heart and health, with students ages 8-18 tackling issues such as community health inequality, civil discourse and advocating for equity and inclusion for all. Learn more at 4-h.org.