Meet nationally ranked archer, Alee Vestal-Laborde
Alee Vestal-Laborde is a biochemist and a nationally ranked U.S. recurve archer. Surprisingly, though her love for archery began at a very young age, she didn’t begin shooting until she was an adult. According to Alee, her family is the outdoors type, but none of them hunted or dabbled in archery. Interested in a wide variety of disciplines, she eventually received four undergraduate degrees in addition to pursuing a master’s degree in biochemistry. After graduate school, she decided to buy a bow. Though most people interested in archery typically seek out a compound bow as a hobby, Alee quickly became increasingly interested in Olympic recurve archery. She soon managed to find a youth-sized recurve bow, and before long, she was happily plucking arrows at haybales in a field.
She spent the next few years sharpening her skills and trying to improve, visiting local archery ranges, which were typically empty, except for an occasional hunter preparing for hunting season. Eventually, however, she grew bored with the solitary nature of shooting alone. During this time, she moved to Baton Rouge. She and her husband actually chose the location of their home based on its location to Highland Road Park (originally the location of an archery range).
Originally from North Carolina (her husband’s family is from Avoyelles), Alee found the local Baton Rouge culture intriguing, though she often missed home, specifically the mountains. At times, she found herself longing for a local archery community (she had to drive to New Orleans to find a range where she can shoot). Though she said many people in Baton Rouge used compound bows (mostly for hunting), a competitive target archery culture was fairly non-existent in Louisiana.
In her spare time, Alee does what she can to advocate for the sport, and she hopes to build a local competitive archery culture.
“Competitive archery is hugely popular in Texas,” she said. “But if I were a high school student interested in becoming a nationally competitive archer, I would have nowhere to go in Louisiana to join a team.”
Despite all these obstacles, Alee was determined to pursue her passion. Convinced she wanted to compete, she began researching national archery tournaments on YouTube. With little knowledge of how such tournaments functioned (she wasn’t even sure what kind of clothing competitors wore), she decided to sign up for a national archery tournament. Though her performance was far from memorable (she only scored 31 points out of a possible 720), she was determined to continue improving her skill. In 2016, in Texas, she decided to compete for the Olympic trials in recurve archery, and she began touring and competing full-time.
In addition to creating a local competitive archery culture, Alee would like to attract more potential female archers to the sport.
“Archery is a very masculine sport,” she admitted. “As far as I know, I’m the only female recurve archer in Louisiana.”
These days, Alee spends most of her time touring the country and competing. When she isn’t competing, she’s typically spending time with her family. If you’d like to learn more about Alee, check her out on Instagram @bakedfish.
Photos by Alyssa Fisher