Saranell Walk has spent 50 years of her life doing archery and has helped change the sport in Utah. But above all for Walk, archery is a family legacy, which she prizes more than any of the trophies on her walls.
It all began with her husband, Jay, getting a new job in Salt Lake City when both were in their 20s. A coworker of her husband, Jim Pickering, first introduced him to the sport.
“He introduced my husband to archery and got him to go on a rabbit hunt,” Walk said. “… After that, he never gave up on it. And then he got me started!”
Over the next 50 years, Walk, who is 81, spent nearly every weekend and about a day per week shooting, whether at competitive tournaments, bowhunting with her family and friends, archery golf shoots, or practicing at the range with the archery club.
She also helped found the archery club now known as Stansbury-Oquirrh Bowmen, with about 60 members, and worked as the “First Lady” of the Utah Archery Association during her husband’s five terms as president. On top of that, the Walks started an archery pro shop in Tooele, called White Pine Archery, which was open for more than a decade.
The Walk family would often work in the archery shop together. Walk says she remembers her two sons sitting on stools and hand-fletching wooden arrows, and burning the edges of the feathers to make the arrows perfectly balanced. Most arrows today are made of carbon and plastic, but when White Pine Archery was established, both bows and arrows were usually handmade from wood.
Walk and her husband taught their children to hunt and shoot at a young age.
“I don’t know if we were the best teachers,” she said with a laugh, “but they’re all still doing it!”
All four of her and Jay’s children — Randy, Ron, Kristie, and Wendy — shoot, whether it be bowhunting or archery golf. Archery golf is a favorite in the family, which involves trying to shoot an 18-target course in as few shots as possible. It’s not just the kids that shoot, though — most all of her 11 grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, and two great-great grandchildren also shoot.
Randy is president of Hoyt Archery, one of the largest archery companies on the planet, and is in the National Archery Hall of Fame. Kristie killed a cougar with her bow this year, and Wendy holds a world record in distance flight, just like her mother. Ron has even made an archery-themed computer game called PC Archery.
All of Walk’s grandchildren, who are adults, have graduated from college, and many of them have become engineers.
“I’m very proud of my family,” she said. “All of them. They’ve done excellent.”
Although Walk’s family is spread across the country, with relatives in Oregon, Virginia and Arizona, archery has always brought them together. Every year from when the kids were young, the Walk family would go bowhunting in southern Utah.
“My youngest son, he said ‘How come we never went to Disneyland or anywhere?’” Walk said. “And I said, ‘Because you had to go bowhunting with your mom and dad!’”
The family tradition of camping and hunting together has lasted beyond generations. Even now, the family gets together at annual shoots in Las Vegas.
And even some non-relatives have become honorary family.
“At the golf shoots, we had so many friends that would camp out with us,” Walk said. “ … And all of their kids started calling me ‘Mom’! So I have all them kids that still come and talk to me.”
Although Walk always loved the friends she made through archery, she didn’t love the practicing, even though her husband did.
“I didn’t want to practice,” she said. “He practiced constantly, and I practiced … when I felt like it! I just wanted to go and do it.”
And she did. A wall in the Walk’s house is devoted almost entirely to an array of medals, plaques and ribbons on display from archery competitions, both her’s and her husband’s. There are recent medals from the Senior Games in Cedar City and older ones from national and state championships.
Walk has won 20 Utah State Championship titles and together the Walk couple hold 34 state titles.
In 1980, Walk even broke a world record in distance. She shot an arrow over 805 yards and beat the previous record by about 15 yards. Her record, after over 30 years, still stands today.
She insists humbly that all she did for archery was serve her famous desserts at the club meetings.
“When I quit as president last time,” said Jay Walk, “they said ‘Well, that’s OK if you quit, but tell Saranell she has to bring her desserts!’”
Walk still brings her desserts, but isn’t shooting anymore. Unfortunately, due to increasing eye problems and arthritis, it’s hard for her to camp in the sun and impossible to shoot a bow. The last time she shot her bow she was 70 and shot her fourth and last deer on a hunt with her family.
Not being able to shoot anymore is a big loss for someone who has spent most of her life doing archery with the ones she loves.
“I miss it,” Walk said. “I miss it a lot.”
Her achievements and years of shooting deserved recognition, and this year, Walk was one of four people inducted into the Utah Archery Hall of Fame.
Getting into the Hall of Fame is no easy matter. Prospective archers are interviewed and their merits discussed by the Utah Archery Association committee. Then the candidates are voted on and a yearly banquet is held to announce the new inductees, as well as other archery association matters.
Walk didn’t care much for the attention and banquet, though. She is humble about her many achievements.
“It was very stressful,” she said, with a laugh. “… I don’t like people making a fuss over me! It’s just the way I am.”
“She really doesn’t like to talk about herself,” said Kristie Bell, Walk’s youngest daughter.
Last year, the Walks celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Their relatives and archery friends threw them a party, featuring an archery target signed by their friends and family.
“The best part of archery?” she said, looping an arm around her husband’s shoulder with a laugh. “Having an archery buddy to go with!”
Although Walk doesn’t like to admit it, she’s had an affect not only on her family and friends, but on archery as a sport throughout Utah.
But more than anything, she is proud of the bow and arrow legacy she started with her family.
“I’m really proud of everything they’ve done. … It has been a fun thing to do, as an archery family,” she said.