Just a month after earning sixth place in the 2013 National Senior Games archery competition in Cleveland, Sam Arlia was in a motorcycle accident that left him with extensive injuries to his left hand and shoulder. (He, thankfully, was wearing a helmet, which protected him from more serious injuries.)
The accident could have upended much of his life—including upending his growing passion for archery.
But two years later, he was back, stronger than ever: At last month’s National Senior Games in Minnesota, the mechanical coordinator in Facilities Services took home fifth place in a tight bracket of tough competitors.
Facing windy conditions on the range in Minnesota, Arlia knew that one bad arrow—just a few inches from the yellow bull’s-eye—could drop him in the standings. But Arlia homed in on his target. After all, precision has been a key skill developed over his 24 years on campus, maintaining the mechanical systems and working with construction teams on new building projects.
Out of a total 1,800 points, Arlia finished the competition in fifth with 1,718, just 13 points shy of second place. The first place finisher set the course record for the National Senior Games at 1,756.
“I shot really well,” Arlia said. “I was hoping I was going to place better, but there were some really good shooters out there.”
Though Arlia has competed—and placed—in two national competitions, he picked up the sport just four years ago.
He purchased his first bow and arrow nearly 30 years ago for hunting, but it sat untouched for many years. His nephews encouraged him to give it another try, leading him to begin again in 2011.
To improve, he joined the Case Western Reserve University Archery Club, and the students pushed him to compete for the first time. He thought the teens and 20-somethings were teasing him about his age when they told him to try the Ohio Senior Olympics.
“I didn’t think 50 was a senior yet, but I found out they do start at what the seniors call the ‘children’s division’ of 50- to 54-year-olds,” Arlia said.
It was at that competition that he had one of his proudest moments: He placed five arrows in the bull’s-eye, all within the size of a quarter, from 60 yards out. Other shooters were so amazed by the feat they took pictures, he remembered. In that round, he beat the gold medalist.
“To be on that stage in the end was nice,” he said. “That gave me the fever.”
Now, Arlia hopes to continue improving his place in the national rankings, beginning with the 2017 National Senior Games in Birmingham, Ala.
“I’m not in the top places yet—but I’m getting there,” he said.
Learn more about him with this week’s five questions—and be sure to congratulate Arlia the next time you see him on campus.
1. What technology do you think we should have, but don’t…yet?
Having a younger brother suffering from stage 3 brain cancer and a father suffering from stage 4 lung cancer, and my mother and sister-in-law surviving breast cancer, I would have to say a cure for cancer. I have many close friends who have had or lost battles with cancer. Things have come a long way in treatment and all are doing good and giving it the good fight, but we still need a cure. I am proud to be a supporting part of a university that will hopefully someday find a cure for cancer—along with many other diseases—by keeping their research facilities and equipment running.
2. What was the most challenging part of your education?
Starting late and finishing. I decided to take advantage of the [university’s] education benefit … and started chipping away at my engineering degree on and off. I’ve achieved 100 credits [128-133 credits are needed to complete the program]. I am currently “on sabbatical” so my wife could go back to school. She got her RN degree and has been working for two years. I need to kick myself in the butt to get back into school and finish.
3. What popular icon do you most identify with? Why?
I would say a cross between Henry David Thoreau and Ernest Hemingway. Even though I do not live as simple as Thoreau, I find myself relating to his philosophy of living a simple life and being self-sufficient. I also love Hemingway’s adventurism and I am an avid hunter and outdoorsman. I find an adventure wherever I go.
4. If you could live in any other time period, which would it be?
I’ve always been fascinated with the Lewis and Clark expedition and would love to have been on that journey. The boldness of traveling the unknown and seeing things for the first time had to be a great adventure.
5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
I love the people at CWRU and the whole university atmosphere. From being an employee in facilities, a student, a parent of students and a member of a club sport, I see and enjoy all the university has to offer. I am one of those people who makes you sick because I love my job and have never woken up a day where I dreaded going to work.