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DYERSVILLE, Iowa - As Serina Norte winds up her compound bow, she tries to cycle through the same ritual before she releases.
"Before I shoot, I always take a deep breath and let it go so it calms me down a little bit so I'm less shaky when I pull back," said Norte.
This 11-year-old from Manchester completed the same cycle for hundreds of arrows last weekend in capturing the national title for the Cub Female Freestyle division at the National Field Archery Association's national outdoor tournament.
Norte fired more than 300 arrows and won first place by a single point.
"I was nervous on the first day because I didn't know what it would be like," said Norte. "When I got there, I saw how good the competition was and I got really nervous but, by the first day, I wasn't so nervous."
2013 has been a remarkable year as Norte set a state record for outdoor target, was the Iowa champion in multiple tournaments, won the NFAA Midwest Sectionals in Missouri before taking the national title.
Yet it was her auspicious start in competitive archery that makes this even more eye-catching.
Norte said that her coach, Steve Webber, presented her with the new, pink bow two years ago for her ninth birthday.
"I started shooting it and I wasn't that interest in it."
Then a movie ignited her passion for archery.
"The Hunger Games. I saw it and I wanted to be like Katniss before I started caring about it," said Norte.
Once this girl really committed, the success followed after the endless hours of practicing between Dyersville and a target set up in her own backyard in Manchester.
However, the journey to be a national youth archery champion can be a costly one. Athletes in individual sports like skating, gymnastics and archery often pay their own way and do not have the backing of school-based teams.
Norte and her mother, Jamie Moriarity, have spent this week offering their appreciation to the nearly 20 sponsors and backers, from insurance agents to car washes to outdoors stores. Sponsors that reach from Dyersville to Manchester to Marion.
"I opened up the mail today with a thank you from Serina and a photo in there at the championships," said Julie Smith, a State Farm agent from Manchester who was one of the many people supporting this young woman's dream.
Norte's dreams are far from finished, however. She is looking at the long term for when she is a little bit taller and a little bit older.
"I want to make a spot on Team USA and travel the world."
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