Cole Zeug was 10 years old when his father, Clint, introduced him to bow hunting. Six years later, the Princeton High School junior is a world champion archer.
“It was my birthday, and my dad took me to an archery shop to look at bows,” Zeug said. “I liked shooting it right away, then after a while started to shoot 3D archery and it kind of took off from there.”
Zeug recently returned from the 2019 Youth World Archery Championships in Madrid, Spain.
It was there he teamed with Sawyer Sullivan, of Blaine, and Matthew Russell, of Georgia, to win the gold medal in the Compound Cadet Men’s Team competition in the 15-17 age division.
There were 13 teams in the event, and Zeug and his American teammates beat Australia, Turkey and top-seeded Denmark in the gold medal match.
“It was an incredibly great experience,” Zeug said. “There were 55 countries competing, and you could tell everyone was nervous. I was definitely the most nervous as I’ve ever been, but it was awesome to be able to push through that. The last arrow, I was just in shock about what happened and being a world champion.”
The team earned the second seed in the tournament and needed a shoot-off in a tiebreaker to get past Turkey in the semifinals.
In the gold medal match that was televised on YouTube, the U.S. team controlled Denmark for the duration and held on for a 3-point victory.
The match was played in front of hundreds of spectators in front of Madrid’s Royal Palace.
“It was just crazy,” Zeug said. “Everyone on Denmark was really nice and congratulated us after we won.”
But Zeug didn’t stop there. He also finished sixth in the individual competition and paired with Mackenzie Weatherspoon, of Utah, to take second place in the Mixed Team event. In the individual competition, Zeug lost a tight match to his Russian opponent.
Since realizing his passion for archery, Zeug has been honing his skills with Maple Lake-based coach Linda Beck, who teaches with the North Central Elite Archers.
“There’s no way I remotely make this team without her help the past five years,” Zeug said. “My goal was to make it in the top four in the individuals, but I came across a tough archer and wasn’t able to pull through. But I went out against a guy who shot really well.”
Zeug qualified for the World Championships by placing in the top three at the So-Cal Showdown in Chula Vista, California. He tied with two others for the final spot on the team before narrowly beating out a close friend in a shoot-off.
“I was super-thankful to be able to win that match because I was shooting against a friend of mine,” Zeug said. “I was so happy to make the team and to represent the United States in Spain. I knew I had a good shot to make it, but I knew it would be tough.”
Zeug’s resume also includes the 2017 U.S. Indoor Nationals championship that was conducted in Mankato along with numerous other state competitions.
The World Championships are conducted every other year, so Zeug is hoping to qualify to the U.S. team in both 2021 and ’23. That leaves plenty of time to enjoy the thrills of peppering his targets.
“I think everybody should try archery,” Zeug said. “It’s really fun. Competing in head-to-head matches really gets me going.”