That doesn’t change when the close friends and former roommates go up against each other. However, they said they enjoy standing next to someone who knows where their skills are and will be supportive, no matter the outcome.
Miranda “right now is my No. 1 competitor as far as the U.S. goes,” Ms. Brown said.
“Getting to see her as a teammate is that much better,” she said. “We push ourselves every time we do a match … We’re just really motivated to beat each other.”
Ms. Leek added, “When we compete, we’re going to shoot the best we can, and the arrows will fall where they may … I’m going to shoot my best shot, (and) it comes down to who has prepared better.”
The two archers met in 2008 and keep in contact as they prepare in hopes of competing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Ms. Leek, a 19-year-old from Des Moines, Iowa, competed this summer in London and hopes to take home a medal in Rio. Ms. Brown, a 17-year-old from Flint, is training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
She said she’s always been a competitive person, so finding her niche in a sport was important.
She enjoyed swimming on a local team but found her true passion in archery.
“I picked up the bow, and it felt natural…,” Ms. Brown said. “It was just one of those interesting sports. I wanted to know more and do this.”
Her interest continued to develop, and she was accepted on a junior team in 2008.
She described archery as a lot like golf in that “it’s about 90 percent mental.” The rest, she said, is left to muscle memory.
In an archery competition, participants generally shoot a ranking round, which consists of shooting 72 arrows at 70 meters, with a score of 0 to 10 per shot. That is followed by elimination rounds, where they compete one on one. The target is about 48 inches across.
Ms. Brown said one of her favorite things about competition is meeting new people and learning about different cultures.
While it’s important to have fun, she said that when she steps on the line to shoot; she has to be completely focused on shooting.
“You just kind of move your focus, so when it’s on archery, it’s only on archery,” she said.
For Ms. Leek, a member of the Senior United States Archery Team, archery started a father-daughter activity on the weekends. She later began attending local competitions for fun and taking vacations to competitions.
“It was always fun to experience something new, (and) as I started to see I had some success (with) setting records, I just kind of started to realize I could be good at this,” Ms. Leek said.
Then earlier this year, they moved out to the Chula Vista training center around the same time and were roommates during the second and third stages of the Olympic team trials.
They said they became good friends during that time and formed a bond.
“We thought we might as well be with people we know … She’s a very lively spirit, so I already knew that was going to be a blast,” Ms. Brown said.
When Ms. Leek competed in this summer’s Olympics, Ms. Brown watched each time her friend shot.
“It felt like watching my sister shoot. She’s that special to me,” Ms. Brown said. “I was so very proud of her, and watching her shoot was awesome because I got to live part of the Olympics through her.”
Ms. Leek called London “phenomenal.”
“It’s really hard to describe what it feels like to be at the Olympic Games. So much work went into getting there. Then you’re surrounded by others who have done the same,” she said.
“Making the London team, that was something I wanted so badly, but now that I’ve experienced it first-hand, I appreciated what it means to be an Olympian much more…,” Ms. Leek said. “I want to go to Rio so bad, and I want to bring home my own medal.”
She said sometimes friends are the best support possible when she is striving for that kind of honor.
“The more she helps me, (and) the more I help her, the more our team builds,” she said.
Ms. Leek is attending Texas A&M University, where she studies molecular and cellular biology. She shoots when she can and plans to take time off school when 2016 gets closer.
Ms. Brown, who is considered a cadet, the class for ages 15 to 17, is now training as a resident athlete at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center.
She said her coach invented the form that all of the archers at the training center follow, so she and the other archers work on their form almost daily.
In addition to her form, Ms. Brown said she’s working on a fitness program and has workout facilities, trails and nutritionists she can use.
Ms. Brown hopes to make the World Cup circuit for next year and compete in the youth world championships next year in China.
“My plan is to be an Olympian, and there’s not much that can stop me from doing that,” she said.
Although they’re in different states, they will both be at the Texas Shootout competition in College Station later this month, and they talk every day, whether it’s via phone, text or Skype. They also video each other and give advice.
“We’re just somewhat connected at the hip,” Ms. Brown said.