Meet your neighbor... Henry Keena
DARIEN — The first time Henry Keena tried archery at Boy Scout camp the summer after fifth grade, he was not the talented bowman he is today.
“I thought I’d be so good,” he said. “I was awful.”
Keena, now a senior at Darien High School, tried again the next summer and did so well, he ended up earning a merit badge in archery.
What started as a fun summer camp activity turned into a serious pastime for the 18-year-old. Keena is a competitive archer and ranks 24th in the country in his division.
“I ended up developing an interest in it,” he said.
Keena said archery is a mental sport, which draws him into it. Even when he was in elementary school, sports like kickball and baseball didn’t have a huge appeal to him.
“I found it was fun, but it was more body intensive than mind intensive,” he said. “I want both.”
Keena said he also finds the sport relaxing and was drawn to its individualistic nature. So after camp, he bought a cheap bow and started practicing in his backyard. Around the time Keena started high school, his camp coach recommended a place where he could take lessons and start shooting competitively.
Every Wednesday, Keena and his mother, Sarah, drive an hour and a half to Manchester, home to Hall’s Arrow, a semi-underground facility with indoor shooting range lanes, a store, and archery workshops. It’s the largest junior Olympic development facility in the country and has trainers who have worked and competed in the Olympics. The duo leaves at 3:15 for a 5:30 lesson and usually get home around 8. But through Halls, Keena has made friends and sharpened his skills. He has won competitions at the state, regional and national level, including placing first at the New England regionals.
When Keena isn’t practicing at Hall’s, he is shooting in the front yard of his house at a target he set up there. Keena’s bow is nearly as tall as he is, but he said neighbors have gotten used to seeing him shooting in the front yard and greet him with waves when they see him out there with his equipment. The bow has also gotten a few stares from cars going by, as well as words of encouragement and admiration.
Despite his time spent shooting outside, Keena prefers shooting indoors where he shoots targets from 20-30 meters away. Outdoor archery has more external factors, where indoor comes down to skill, he said.
“It’s a lot more controlled,” he said. “It requires more skill. The only deciding factor is how good you are.”
But you won’t find Keena shooting at the high school. He said he’s tried to start an archery club at the high school since he was a freshman, but despite collecting the names of hundreds of interested students, the school has denied his request, citing, legal, space and funding concerns. Instead, in January, the school added archery to the physical education curriculum. Keena will be helping the instructor with it.
“At least it’s going to be there in some form,” he said. “Not only is it fun for me, but I think a lot can be learned from it and there’s a lot it can add to DHS.”
Keena’s mother agreed, saying she’s found the focus on the sport has made Keena more mature and patient.
When Keena leaves DHS, his focus won’t necessarily be on archery.
“I’d like wherever I go to have a club or place to shoot, but I don’t want archery to be the deciding factor,” he said. “As much as I love it, I want to go to school for my head, not my bow arm.”
Keena, a member of the DHS programming club, would like to go to school to study computer science. But the 2020 Olympics remain a possibility as trials approach.
“I’d like to try,” he said.