Not only is Red Cloud Indian School freshman Justin Mesteth excelling at archery—he won the competition at the Black Hills Powwow and Lakota National Invitational three years in a row—he’s also a straight A student.
“My goal is to win nationals this time, and then move on to the Olympics,” said Justin Mesteth, according to a Red Cloud press release.
Justin, 14, learned to use a bow from his father, Gabe Mesteth, both Oglala Lakota. Gabe learned the skill from his older brother.
“I used to use a rifle to hunt, but there is no sport in that,” Gabe said in the release. “Using a bow was a challenge. You actually have to stop, track, and sight. It’s a different skill set.”
Gabe feels as though Justin has learned patience through archery, and Justin agrees. For the time being, Justin isn’t hunting with his bow. He stalks the animals and is waiting for the ceremony that will signal adulthood and the privilege of bowhunting.
For now, he practices daily for at least two hours.
“It helps to have tunnel vision,” Justin said in the release. “You just need to focus. My dad is always reminding me not to worry about other peoples’ targets or whether I’ll shoot a bull’s-eye or not; it’s all in your mind.”
Justin started archery at Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary in Porcupine, South Dakota—his hometown. The school is part of the Red Cloud Indian School system, which has had an archery program for a number of years.
“It is nice to have students who started at Our Lady of Lourdes on the Red Cloud High School team because they set a higher standard that the newer archers can work toward,” said Shannon McConnaughey, an archery coach and science teacher at Red Cloud, in the release. “Justin and the others do a good job of being positive role models and using their experience to support and lead others.”
Justin doesn’t spend all his time practicing archery though. He’s a straight A student and has a 4.0 GPA.
“He's incredibly modest,” said Clare Huerter, Justin’s English teacher. “You would never know that he was a top student, but he works incredibly hard. He is very concerned about his grades and on top of his work.”
Gabe believes his son has excelled in archery because he is committed to his schoolwork. “I have always insisted that his academics come first over sports,” Gabe said.
Justin also plays football, baseball and basketball at Red Cloud in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and is a traditional powwow dancer.
“He is an outstanding athlete. He is a hard worker and does whatever it takes to win—a real competitor,” said Christian McGhee, the high school’s athletic director and basketball coach. “Justin is just one of those kids that you love to have on the team because of his attitude on and off the floor.”
Justin’s currently preparing for the National Field Archery Association competition coming up in April.
“You can’t get intimidated,” Justin said. “It’s all in your mind—whether you will hit a bull’s-eye or not. If you believe in yourself, you will.”