While Columbia’s sports teams may be known more for losing than anything else, the opposite is true of the archery program under head coach Derek Davis, who took the helm in 2004.
The past decade has been no exception to that dominance. Between the 2010 and 2019 seasons, the Lions have been in the running for a number of national championships. Since winning the program’s first national championship during Davis’ first season at the helm in 2004-2005, the team has won multiple national championships, including first-place recurve finishes in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017 and first-place compound finishes in 2015, 2017, and 2018. Undoubtedly, 2015 was the team’s high point as the Lions secured the national title in both categories for the first time in team history.
Of course, with the incredible success that the team has experienced over the past 10 years, there have been a few standout archers that were instrumental to this success. One such star is Julie Hoffman, CC ’16, who helped guide the Lions to a 2015 team NCAA championship with her team-leading second-place individual finish in compound. More recently, Sophia Strachan, CC ’20, has established herself as one of the best athletes in Columbia’s history by winning the 2019 Compound Collegiate Indoor National Championship and being named a member of the 2020 United States Archery Team.
Head coach Derek Davis is a man that clearly lives and breathes archery. Since discovering the sport in college, Davis has been in and around archery for decades, but he has clearly found his calling. Davis has received numerous accolades for his work with the Lions, including the 2014 USA Archery National Coach of the Year Award.
Prior to joining the Lions, Davis served as a senior audio systems engineer at Tekserve where he aided in constructing production systems for musical artists like Alicia Keys, Bruce Springsteen, and Bjork. Interestingly enough, his past career in technology has aided him in his current venture as the Lions’ head coach; Davis won the 2013 Doc Counsilman Science Award, which is awarded each year to the coach “who utilizes scientific techniques and equipment as an integral part of his/her coaching methods or has created innovative ways to use sport science," according to the Olympic Team USA website.
Certainly, Davis’ innovative mindset has been crucial to his ability to rack up as many championships and awards as he has over the past 10 years.
While Columbia’s archery program has seen a number of high-level competitors come through in the past decade, when it comes to choosing who has made the greatest impact on the team, the choice is undoubtedly Sophia Strachan, CC ’20. From Strachan’s first moments on campus in 2016, it was clear that she would be a crucial member of the team for years to come. Now, having reached a shortened senior season that she will not get to complete due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it is fair to say that Strachan has left a significant mark on the Columbia archery community and beyond.
In Strachan’s first season as a Lion, she made her presence immediately felt. In the 2017 Indoor National Championships, Strachan scored a competition-high 1,157 points in compound. For her accomplishments, Strachan was named an All-American in her first collegiate season.
All this success in her first year naturally begged the question of whether or not anybody could keep up that level of success for all four years of college. Yet Strachan has consistently exceeded the standard she set for herself. During her sophomore year, Strachan came tantalizingly close to winning her second national championship, eventually settling for a runner-up finish and another All-American selection. Finally, in her junior season, Strachan made it back to the college archery mountaintop with a final score of 1,169 in the compound championship to give her two individual national champions in three seasons.
However, Strachan has also found success outside of the Columbia archery team. In 2019, she was named to USA Archery’s compound senior women's team. With that team, Strachan competed in multiple World Cup competitions, including one in Shanghai during which she helped lead the United States to the gold medal.
For a team that has experienced so much high-level success in the past decade, it can be hard to select a single biggest moment, as any national championship could be considered a bright spot. However, the 2015 national championship stands out above the rest of the titles for a number of reasons.
While by 2015 the Light Blue had already won four national championships in recurve, the compound championship had long eluded them. In order to establish themselves as true powerhouses in the world of collegiate archery, the Lionswent into the 2015 National Outdoor Collegiate Archery Championships with their sights set on winning their first compound championship.
In the compound portion of the event, the Lions rode a second-place individual finish from Hoffman to victory. Despite not taking the gold individually, Hoffman still ended the championship with the highest individual compound finish in program history.
Meanwhile, the Light Blue found similar success in the recurve competition, winning the competition and finishing with three All-Americans to go along with the three compound All-Americans on the team and matching the program record of six.
Matching that record was only the icing on the cake that was the Lions winning the dual championships, marking the first time the team accomplished the feat in program history.