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Nathan Winters tells his inspiring tale of sportsmanship and surviving cancer

By: Lacy Hilliard
Staff Writer/Photographer

Johnson County is filled with talented residents; even so, it may come as a surprise when you learn that guy you called to put gutters on your house is also an Archery Shooters Association tournament champion. However, if you called Nathan’s Guttering service, that’s exactly the situation you’d find yourself in.
Nathan Winters is a man that wears many hats, husband, father, and small business owner. However, only those close to him are aware of one of his most impressive endeavors. Winters has been a competitive archer since age 15. His uncle, David Campbell and his father, Randy Winters, fostered Winters love of archery by taking him bow hunting at age 13. It wasn’t long before the weekend hobby became a passion and Winters used every opportunity to take his father’s old bow outside and target shoot.
His talent and dedication to the sport soon made him a force to be reckoned with. Today, Winters is a sponsored archer by big name companies like Matthews Solocam, Gold Tip, Shrewd, Limbsaver, STAN Releases, Alpen Optics, Trophy Taker, Vital Gear and Muzzy. He competes each year in the (ASA) Archery Shooters Association circuit and can boast impressive winnings since beginning his career with the ASA in 2003.
Many can claim a passion for archery, but perhaps few can claim that the sport saved their life. In 2002, shortly after registering for his first ASA tournament, Winters noticed an unfamiliar pain while target shooting in preparation for the upcoming ASA Tournament Season. Concerned by the newfound discomfort, Nathan asked his wife, Vangie Winters, to take him to the emergency room. In December of 2002, Nathan was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

A comparatively rare cancer; about 7,920 new cases of testicular cancer are diagnosed each year. This number is relatively low when compared with the number one cancer diagnosed in men, prostate cancer; in which there are about 238,590 new cases diagnosed each year. Fortunately for Winters, his cancer was detected early and after a surgical procedure and a round of chemotherapy, he was given a clean bill of health. Had it not been for the discomfort he experienced while target shooting, his fate could have been very different.
Because of his battle with cancer, Winters missed the first two tournaments in the 2003 ASA Circuit. Even so, his first year on the ASA circuit was impressive, finishing sixth rank. The following year, Winters went on to win his first National tournament. In 2004, Winters finished fifth in the nation in the amateur division and it wasn’t long after that that he was offered a sponsorship by Matthews Solocam, one of his largest supporters to date.
Following his big win, Winters made the difficult decision to take a short break from the sport. “My kids were getting to the age where they were starting to play sports and I wanted to coach their teams and be there for them” he said. His children, Zachary and Natalie, couldn’t have more pride in their father and Zachary has recently begun his journey into the sport of archery and has already received national recognition and has garnered many of the same sponsors as his father. The pair draw on each other for inspiration, “Zachary makes me want to be better at this,” said Nathan.
Both Nathan and his son are members of the Cherokee Bowhunters Club. The club is located off Deer Run Road in Laurel Bloomery and is open to both adults and children. Boasting an impressive indoor target shooting range, the club hosts a tournament every Saturday night with a modest $10 entry fee for adults and 8 dollars for children. Members of the public are welcome to join the tournament as both spectators and competitors. If you’re interested in becoming a member of the Cherokee Bowhunters Club, membership is only $20 for a first time single membership or $25 for a first time family membership. Following the first year, the annual membership fees only go up $10. Membership to the Cherokee Bowhunters Club buys you unlimited access to their impressive facilities. If you’d like to find out more about the club, call (423) 471-1273 or visit their website at www.cherokee-bow-hunters-club.com
As for Nathan Winters, his archery career has only just begun. He was recently offered a chance to join Team USA and take his sport to the Olympic level. Winters turned down the offer, stating that he doesn’t feel he has enough time to devote to such a pursuit as of yet, but he definitely hopes to make it to the Olympics someday. For now, he will continue to travel the ASA Circuit with his best friend, Ron Oakes. Because both Oakes and Winters own their own businesses (Winters- Nathan’s Guttering and Oakes- Maple Ridge Landscaping and Garden Center), the pair are afforded the freedom to travel the ASA Circuit which takes them everywhere from Florida to Alabama. The pair also competed in the Superman Classic, held in the town of Metropolis, Illinois. Metropolis is the hometown of the fictional character and many refer to it as “The town that Superman built.” Oakes and Winters won big at the Superman Classic with an impressive cumulative score.
Winters expressed a huge debt of gratitude to his wife, Vangie and his daughter, Natalie “Without their support none of this would be possible. They’re always understanding about the amount of travel that goes into competitions.” Though Nathan has plenty to boast about, he remains humble: “I give all the credit to God. He gave me my talent and he allowed me not only to beat cancer, but to come out of it stronger than I was before and for that I am grateful.”