CROFTON, Neb. | Up until about four years ago, Kali Pavlik's main exposure to archery was her father's past bow hunting experiences.
When Pavlik attended a church camp at age 13 or 14, one of the activities was archery. She gave it a try.
Pavlik was hooked, and she's now in the upper echelon of young archers in the country, competing nationally and internationally.
It was a quick ascension up the junior and now professional ranks. Looking back, Pavlik finds it hard to explain just how she made it so far so fast.
"I had no idea where I was going. I just jumped into it. Everything was different and new," said the 18-year-old daughter of Tom and Tara Pavlik.
Almost from the start, Pavlik has been on target.
"It wasn't easy," she said. "I got into the game pretty fast."
How fast? Well, after the aforementioned church camp, an excited Pavlik asked for a bow for her birthday. She received the birthday present a few months early in 2013 and began practicing.
With each shot, she became more enamored with the sport and its individuality. She liked being on her own, doing something few other kids were into.
"I liked how nobody was doing it," Pavlik said.
A month or two later, Pavlik and her dad went to nearby Yankton, South Dakota, to watch an archery tournament. Organizers told them they should enter the father/daughter competition. So they went back to their rural Crofton home, returned with their bows and won the tournament.
Just like that, Pavlik adjusted her sights and aimed higher.
"That's when it went into the competition mode," she said.
Pavlik got a competition bow and began practicing, a lot. Tom opened the NBG (Nothing But Gold) indoor archery range in the Yankton Mall so Kali could shoot as much as she wanted.
By February 2014, Pavlik was competing in the Vegas Shoot in Las Vegas, where she finished in the top half. There were tournaments that summer in Florida, Ohio and Texas. In late 2014, Pavlik tried out for and was chosen for the Junior Dream Team, a national team that took her to tournaments in Rome and all over the United States. After two years, Pavlik resigned from the team to prepare for the World Indoor Cup Series, in which she would compete for the first time as a professional.
The series began this past November with the first stage in Morocco, followed by stages in Thailand and France before wrapping up in February with the final stage in Las Vegas.
Pavlik pushed through all the jet lag, performing well enough for a top-16 finish to qualify for a shoot-off to determine the world champion. She wound up ninth, competing against adults who had years of experience on her.
It's been a rapid rise to success. Pavlik herself says it's hard to explain, but hard work certainly has been a key. She practices nearly every day, either in her back yard or an indoor range. Workouts include cardio exercises and building strength in the core muscles that are vital to an archer's success.
It hasn't been easy, Pavlik said.
"I definitely had to sacrifice a lot," she said.
Because of all the practice and time spent traveling to tournaments, Pavlik couldn't compete in team sports or many other activities at Crofton High School, though she found time for FFA, student council and National Honor Society. She's also an archery coach for several area children.
Though she missed out on some high school experiences, the time spent traveling and developing the mental focus needed to compete at a high level was a worthwhile trade-off.
"My mentality has changed a lot. Being able to experience all this changes things a lot," Pavlik said. "It's definitely changed how I see things."
As for the future, Pavlik doesn't have her sights set on the Olympics, but rather national tournaments and maybe an occasional world cup.
Pavlik plans on competing in a tournament or two this summer, but the recent honor graduate currently is focusing more on this fall, when she'll begin classes at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she'll major in speech language pathology. She'll continue to coach and compete for the university's club team, playing the rest of her archery career by ear.
"Right now with college coming up, I'm not really committing to anything," she said. "I'm just seeing how everything goes."
After rising quickly in the sport, she's chosen to slow down a little, but success remains in her sights.