At Their Peak

Meet Charlie Edwards, high-achieving senior athlete. 

Edwards is the reigning national archery champion in his age group.

Photo by Tracey Lee

Twenty targets spike the green, from 40 to 60 yards distant. They’ll be pierced all day by a thousand arrows in an almost silent ritual—pull and release, pull and release, check the score, fire some more. Archery favors the solitary-minded precision athlete, one who knows it’s all up to the individual, but who also likes it when there’s a gallery of spectators. “It’s nice to have an audience,” admits 98-year-old Charlie Edwards of Springfield. Which is a good thing, because for him, drawing one isn’t an issue—he’s the reigning national champion in his age group, having earned the highest score ever among nonagenarians at the 2015 National Senior Games. A star among senior Virginia athletes, Edwards pits mind against muscle, challenging himself beyond anyone’s expectation but his own.

I don’t dare not be active. On a day that I spend here inside, by myself, even if I’m busy reading, I regret not getting out, not seeing something new.

His tool in this sport is a Hoyt compound bow that’s “quite complex for a high degree of accuracy,” says Edwards, “that’s the one I like.” He practices indoors when weather prevents an outdoor session at Ft. Belvoir. Competitions across the country help hold his interest. “The venues are always beautiful,” he says, their manicured lawns and multi-colored targets thrilling each time. 

Being among the oldest competitors offers a benefit, he says: “There comes a point when you brag about your age again, just like a proud 4 ½ year old.” Of his record—a 1,089 score in compound release—he expects that “somebody’s surely going to take a crack at it,” but for now, he’s champion until further notice. 

Outside of competing, Edwards swims several times a week and does twice-weekly resistance training. The WWII Navy pilot came “about as close as you can come” to death when landing his fighter plane on an aircraft carrier during rough weather and narrowly missing torpedo hits in the Pacific. “Just a few feet, just fractions of seconds, makes all the difference,” says Edwards, perhaps explaining why firing arrows into targets holds its attraction now. A clean sport, he calls it. And one that hearkens to his youth spent hunting on his grandparents’ farm. 

Athleticism is vital to his happiness. “I don’t know why I’m so pleased with life. I’m so pleased with what I have had and I guess it shows,” Edwards reflects. He’s writing a memoir about his career in the steel industry and federal intelligence, replete with memories of dancing under palm trees early in his 68-year marriage to his late wife Marnie. As for long-term goals, “I’m not finished yet,” he says with trademark positivity. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll find myself on Mars.”

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