Passing Down the Bow
Linn resident Janis Grellner first picked up a bow at 37 years old at an outdoor camp that taught women Dutch oven cooking, kayaking, pistol and rifle shooting and archery on Boy Scout campgrounds in Potosi.
“Because a lot of women when you learn a sport pretty much dominated by men, you want to learn from other women involved in the sport,” Grellner said. “So having an environment that had people who would be able to help teach that was very beneficial to a lot of women there.”
Ten years later, she was trying for a bid to the 2012 Olympics. Fifty-two women competed in the First Nomination Shoot of the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2011 in College Station, Texas, where the top 16 archers advance to the next round and eventually the top three were selected. Grellner placed 17th, missing the first cut by two points.
Within about four or five months of practice, she was able to hunt her first deer on a compound bow. After a few years of attending tournaments with her son, two daughters and husband in what had become a family sport, Grellner became the Missouri State 3-D Champion.
Grellner started looking for a mentor that could lead her to a national ranking.
“I liked shooting, and I just didn’t realize how important technique was. I just thought if I was able to put the pin in the middle and be able to release that, it should be there,” she said.
Around 2008, she found Olympic coach Larry Skinner — who, eight years earlier, had guided Illinois native Vic Wunderle to Olympic silver — only 90 miles away in Moberly.
Skinner encouraged Grellner to switch from Compound to Olympic style recurve and to focus on her mental approach.
“I found out after getting coaching that aiming is important but how you are shooting is more important,” she said. “The process is so much more important than the outcome because the process is what determines the outcome.”
Over the next two decades, she won dozens more state and regional competitions, including the Heartland Triple Crown 3-D, which involved winning first in three state tournaments; achieved a United States Archery Team national ranking in recurve; and attended the Olympic Trials twice, in 2011 and 2015.
Now, Grellner, 57, dominates the USA Archery Women’s master’s division for archers aged 50 and up. In August, she beat Tatyana Muntyan and Susan Bock at the Target Nationals in Richmond, Virginia. Grellner has won first in five out the past six years in the division, only missing last year because of the pandemic.
She has won at the Missouri State Senior Games every year since 2015 and has set three records in the National Senior Games in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
Targets sit on their stands at staggered distances and tents cluster behind a neat row of spotting scopes on a large grassy field behind the Moberly YMCA.
At the head archery table, Grellner checks competitors into the 2021 Missouri Archery Association Junior Olympic Archery Development and Adult Championship. She answers their questions and moves archers around the targets because of last minute cancellations. The president of the MAA, Grellner also prepares herself for the competition. She grabs her bow from her van and changes the knocks of her arrows in order to distinguish them from her bale mates’, one of her JOAD students, Meaghan Frank.
Grellner has become the mentor for the next generation of archers, training them from her range in Linn.
Frank remembers in fourth grade when somebody told her: ‘“You can’t shoot a bow. You’re not strong enough.’”
But Grellner proved to Frank that she was strong enough.
Now in her eighth year training with Grellner, Frank is competing at 70 meters.
“Janis has worked with so much. Mental. Physical,” said Meaghan’s mother, JeNae Frank. “There wasn’t any challenge that Janis couldn’t work through.”
Between ends as Grellner shoots her arrows, Meaghan talks with Larry Skinner, who watches from the under the judging tent.
“You don’t know how lucky you are to have Janis as your coach,” Skinner said.
“Oh, I know,” Meaghan said.
Grellner is able to coordinate, coach and win the tournament because of her game mentality and her coaching philosophy.
She is all business when she is on the line blocking out distractions.
“I have to be with this arrow once it’s in the bow,” she said. “That helps not let your mind wander in the middle of performing: coming to draw, anchoring and following through. You don’t want anything to come in the middle of that process, because it’s a glitch.”
Once she sets down her bow, she stops thinking about archery.
Light glows from the windows of Backyard Archers, fading into the darkness of the woods on a cold November evening. Inside, the heater gently rumbles beneath a row of bows as recurve shooter Anna Howard stands with her head tethered to the bow stand in the middle of the room.
Grellner noticed that Howard was “goosing” her neck and moving her lips. The extension of the neck, chin and lips added unnecessary movement to the draw.
She tunes Howard to truly feel her neck, lips, scapula and elbow and to streamline the movements.
Grellner stands parallel to the young archer as she checks her form. She lightly places her hand on her student’s head as the bow comes draw.
“Good job, Anna! Very good” Grellner says as the arrow misses its mark. “Now, don’t worry about it. You didn’t move your head or anything. Perfect. Perfect.”
Howard, a junior at Salem High School, has been training with Grellner for about five years. She aspires to shoot for a college team and dreams to go to the Olympics.
“She is like my idol,” Howard said. “She does the teaching, and she competes. I don’t understand how she balances it. It’s incredible.”