Trent Rutt’s Story: From Battling Cancer to Winning an S3DA State Championship
Trent Rutt is an avid archer and active with the Reading Archery Club in Reading, Pennsylvania. He began his journey with archery in August 2020 and has been practicing at home and competing in tournaments whenever he can for the past year. He’s a 13-year-old who loves spending time with his friends at the range. But prior to fighting for a win at the archery range, Trent was facing another battle: one with cancer.
“He put forth his best effort at the beginning of his football season in 2019, making it through the first two weeks of practice when the cancer diagnosis came,” Trent’s mom, Ashley Rutt, said. “He really wasn’t feeling well and had lost all his confidence for fear of getting hurt. I didn’t know what was going on, so I just kept encouraging him, thinking that he was just tired of playing but really, that wasn’t the case.”
Trent was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare liver cancer, and hepatocellular cancer in August 2019. Trent immediately began chemotherapy treatments. He would eventually undergo a liver resection four months later. “After he completed all his chemo treatments and had his surgery, he was cleared to return to all activities,” Ashley said. “When it was time to sign back up for football in the fall of 2020, he was not mentally there for fear of getting hurt.”
But, unbeknownst to them, Trent wouldn’t have to wait too long to begin his next chapter. After his final chemo treatment on March 6, 2020, Trent was cleared to play sports. Though he was done with chemo, he was wary of the high-impact sports he was used to playing, like gymnastics, wrestling and football. Ashley knew that Trent’s active and competitive spirit needed a new outlet. So, they turned to archery. They signed Trent up for archery lessons at Reading Archery Club, where his friend Landon was already a member. This simple gesture ended up igniting a new passion in Trent and launched a year filled with archery success, culminating in a win at the 2021 Pennsylvania S3DA Indoor Target State Championship, made even sweeter by the fact that the win happened to fall on the one-year anniversary of Trent’s last chemo treatment.
“It was absolutely amazing!” Ashley said. “Trent went through something unthinkable for a young kid to have to handle, but he did it like a champ with a smile on his face, even when he was having the hardest time. He is definitely an inspiration, and it warmed my heart to see that he did so well and placed on the anniversary of his last chemo treatment.”
Like most of us trying something new, Trent felt a mix of emotions at his first competition. “I was really excited and nervous all at the same time,” Trent said. “When I went to practice, my hands shook a lot and my shots weren’t the best. Once the practice was over and the competition started, my nerves calmed down and I had good shots. During my second tournament, which was States, the kid shooting beside me shot my target. So, when I went to count my score up, I had an extra arrow on my target.” Since then, he’s learned how to focus during practice and competitions. “I take a deep breath and tune out my surroundings,” Trent said.
Ashley has seen a big change in Trent since he started practicing archery and reflected on his progress. “Joining Reading Archery Club has given Trent his confidence back,” Ashley said. “Since he started shooting at the club, he has regained his competitive drive. His spunk is back and it gives him a sense of normalcy, putting a routine back into his schedule.” When you combine his cancer battle and schools closing due to COVID-19, Trent ended up spending his entire sixth grade year at home. Ashley credits archery with helping him feel like himself again. “It has also helped him get back to being with other people after spending an entire year at home doing school and only hanging with family and the hospital staff.”
Trent agrees. When asked what intrigues him about archery, he answered, “Hanging out with my friends and shooting things. It also has given me more hunting opportunities. I rifle hunt and have harvested four deer with my .270; three bucks and one doe. I have gone out archery hunting but haven’t had the opportunity to make a clear shot yet. It also gives me more time to spend with my dad and grandpa.”
Luckily, Trent is able to practice at home, which helps provide that one-on-one time with his family. “As soon as I get home from school I go out to our backyard and shoot a couple of rounds at my target,” Trent said. His home range not only allows him to keep his practice routine up, but it makes it something he can enjoy with the rest of his family. Trent has taken up practicing archery and hunting with his dad. When asked what the best part about practicing archery with his dad is, Trent said it was trick shots. “He loves being challenged,” Ashley notes.
She thinks this year’s successes are only the beginning. “I feel that archery has made a special place in his heart and can see him shooting for the rest of his life,” Ashley said. “I think that his goal for future competitions is to better his score, perfect his accuracy. He has an older friend who shoots in the ‘Open Class’ and I know that he would love to be able to shoot and score as well as he does. One of his other personal goals is to be able to harvest a deer with his bow, and this will help him sharpen his hunting skills.”
Ashley advises other parents to let their kids try anything that sparks their interest. “You only get to be a kid once, and if they never try, they will never know if it’s something they’re good at or enjoy,” Ashley said. “I would also say focus on the good and not the bad. Everyone has a bad day here and there. Maybe practice didn’t go as well as they planned or they didn’t do as well as they hoped at a competition or game, but try and encourage them by completing something that you feel did go well and let them know that next time is a new opportunity. Our motto is ‘One day at a time.’”
Trent certainly follows that motto. His advice to anyone who is going through a battle like his was the same: “Just take it one day at a time.” His advice to anyone looking to get started in archery is also direct and to the point. “Just go and do it,” Trent said. And there you have it.