READFIELD — Charlie Weinstein slips the arrow into place and carefully draws back the bowstring, his left hand resting against his cheek. He stands, motionless, locking in his sight on the dime-sized bull’s-eye nearly 60 feet away. Weinstein gently flexes his left shoulder. The movement is imperceptible, but it kicks off an explosion that launches the arrow that, in a fraction of a second, has found its mark inside the center circle, what Weinstein calls the sweet spot. It’s a place Weinstein’s arrows find with the regularity of a metronome.
“I love the rush of shooting,” Weinstein said. “It’s a feeling you don’t get in any other sport.”
A 17-year-old junior at Maranacook High School, Weinstein is already pushing on the outer edges of excellence in that sport. He is the fifth-ranked outdoor shooter in his age group — 16 to 21 — and first-ranked indoor shooter, according to USA Archery. Last month, Weinstein took first at a competition in Newberry, Fla., to earn one of just three spots on the U.S. Archery Junior Compound Team that will compete next month in Nimes, France. The event wrapped up a big 2013 season for Weinstein that included breaking the Maine Archery Association’s 5-spot record with 60 bull’s-eyes, taking third at the Junior Olympics Archery Development outdoor nationals and hitting a record 59 bull’s eyes at the New England Indoor Sectionals. The last time Weinstein suffered a defeat in New England was April 15, 2011. He still feels the sting.
“That was a very bad day,” he said.
“He is remarkable,” said his coach, Steve Dunsmoor, of Lakeside Archery in North Yarmouth. “He’s a very, very talented young man.”
Weinstein took up the sport in 2008 and began competing in 2011. He has advanced quickly thanks, in part at least, to mental toughness and discipline. Weinstein’s makeup sets him apart from others Dunsmoor has coached.
“He’s much more receptive, more implementive,” the coach said. “When you say, âLet’s try to accomplish that,’ he’s much more willing to change. He’s very easy to work with.”
Weinstein has an easy nature about him that helps him remained focused when his shooting sours.
“It’s a very disciplined sport, much like martial arts would be,” Dunsmoor said.
Instead of mounting pressure to excel and win, Weinstein said he finds tranquility on the range.
“If I get stressed out while I’m shooting, I’ll shoot some more,” he said. “I’ll shoot until the stress is gone.”
That easygoing demeanor does not equate to aloofness, however. Weinstein is driven to perfect his craft. He shoots four or five times per week during the winter — Maranacook Middle School in his hometown of Readfield made space for Weinstein to set up a makeshift range in the basement — and every day during the summer.
“This is my passion,” Weinstein said. “I don’t shoot for the medals. I shoot for the competition and challenge.”
Beyond the competition and the challenge Weinstein has found a close knit group that he calls family. Most of its members live in the western part of the country. Every tournament turns into a defacto reunion.
“I love the people,” Weinstein said. “I spend more time with my teammates than I do my family at tournaments.”
Shooting an arrow involves little more than pulling back on the bow, aiming the arrow in the general direction of the target and letting it fly. Shooting an arrow with repeated precision involves a maze of calculations that factor wind direction, humidity and yardage. Weinstein said even a few inches in difference can have a dramatic impact on those calculations. The calculations, the bow and the target all flood Weinstein’s mind and are funneled into the release in perfect balance.
“You get a beat in your head and you shoot to the beat,” he said. “I shoot to pretty much a pulsating in my head.”
The skills Weinstein has developed on the shooting range have transferred into everyday life in significant ways, said his mother, Marianne Weinstein.
“The best part of all this archery stuff is how much it’s helped his confidence,” she said.
His mom and his dad, David Weinstein of Gardiner, have trouble containing the pride they feel for their son.
“I’m overwhelmed,” David Weinstein said. “I never thought he’d get to this stage from popping balloons to maybe representing his country overseas.”
Marianne Weinstein says simply that her son is the best thing she’s ever been a part of.
“He’s my pride and joy,” she said.
His parents’ devotion have helped Charlie Weinstein achieve his greatness, but it has not come without sacrifices in time and finances. In addition to the travel, the equipment can get expensive — one of Weinstein’s 65-pound compound bows costs more than $2,000. A pair of sponsors, Gold Tip arrows and Bee-Stinger Archery Stabilizers, help defray some of those costs, and David Weinstein has set up an account to accept donations from those who wish to help his son pursue the sport.
“It gets expensive,” Charlie Weinstein said.
His hope is to pursue perfection until one day others are paying him to do what he loves. The dream is within reach, said Dunsmoor, who expects Weinstein to win a world championship if he continues on his current trajectory. Weinstein could soon start attracting college scholarship offers, and the potential is there to one day make a very comfortable living, Dunsmoor said.
“He’s only 17, and he’s competing better than most adults that I know,” Dunsmoor said. “There’s a whole host of opportunities for people who are shooting well.”
Craig Crosby — 621-5642 [email protected]