Adriana Cain had always enjoyed sports and outdoor activities as a kid in upstate New York. So, when she and her family relocated to a high-rise building in downtown Chicago two years ago, the girl with Kansas roots had to replace some of her longtime hobbies with new ones.
In early August, just about a year after picking up a bow and arrow for the first time, Adriana took home two medals — one for placing first in the qualifier, another for taking second in the elimination round — at the USA Archery Outdoor National Championships in suburban Indianapolis.
The sixth-grader’s performance set a new national record: 144 arrows scoring 1,069 settings. Adriana’s high marks also earned her a silver Olympic achievement pin with a score of 289 with 36 arrows, giving her a major advantage in trying out for the Junior Olympics archery team once she turns 13 next year.
Adriana, who attends classes through Lawrence Virtual School, isn’t resting on her laurels, though.
“I need to up my score and keep practicing,” she says. “I usually shoot almost every day except for on Tuesday.”
Most mornings are spent at the archery range. When Adriana’s not practicing her aim, she’s weight training at the gym — the 12-year-old wants to build her upper body strength in order to handle bigger, heavier bows.
Schoolwork, facilitated by her mother at home and the school's certified teachers back in Kansas, usually takes place in the afternoon.
Adriana’s mom, Julie Cain, says she and her husband enrolled their daughter at LVS after moving to Chicago. The family was offered a military waiver through Adriana’s father, an active U.S. Army servicemember whose job entails frequent relocations.
The Cain parents are Kansas natives who lived in Piper before moving to New York, and they still retain a permanent residence in Julie’s hometown of LeRoy.
After years of sending Adriana to traditional brick-and-mortar schools, the Cains decided to try something new. The decision, Julie Cain says, has paid off.
“The freedom of the virtual school has allowed her to come out when the weather’s good and between traffic here in Chicago,” Cain says of her daughter’s practice schedule. “She shoots during windows of opportunity. It’s a great advantage being in the virtual academy to be able to have that flexibility.”
In addition to supervising schoolwork, the elder Cain helps “keep me on track” at the archery range, too, Adriana says of her mom. Since Adriana’s first foray into the sport about a year ago, Julie Cain has also taken up an interest, earning her level-2 coaching certificate just this past spring.
She’s made a point of learning more about the equipment in an effort to assist Adriana during competitions — there, she says, it’s usually parents who are responsible for fixing any malfunctions.
Adriana’s father is also working toward becoming an archery judge in an effort to involve himself in his daughter’s new sport. Her younger brother is also dabbling in archery, though at 8 years old, he’s still a bit young for the competitive circuit, Julie Cain says.
“We’re very excited and very proud and extremely pleased with the dedication and the determination that archery has brought her, because she’s definitely the driving force,” she says of Adriana. “She’s the one who wants to get out and practice. Whether it’s cold or raining or windy, she wants to be out on the range putting in her time.”
Adriana’s high scores at the recent national championships take her one step closer to qualifying for the Junior Olympics, widely considered the next step for young athletes on their way to the grown-up Olympic Games.
Her favorite part of this month’s championship in Indiana, she says, was walking off the podium after receiving her medals.
“I enjoyed it because most people don’t get to do stuff like this, and I’m very proud of myself,” Adriana says. “It took a lot of hard work.”
She’d be proud to make it onto the Junior Olympics team, too, she says. For now, there’s school to keep her busy. Adriana, who also enjoys swimming, running and lacrosse, wants to be an orthodontist when she grows up.
She likes archery, she says, because of the steady calmness and mental focus it requires.
As far as making it to the Olympics someday?
“Yeah, that would be great,” Adriana says. “But that’s a long way away.”