Rigorous practice pays for local archers at national event

Written by Dick Mason, The Observer August 10, 2010 11:32 am
DICK MASON / The Observer Ron Babcock, left, and Jerry Gibson, both of La Grande, displayed their archery prowess at the 65th annual National Field Archery Association Outdoor National Championships.
DICK MASON / The Observer Ron Babcock, left, and Jerry Gibson, both of La Grande, displayed their archery prowess at the 65th annual National Field Archery Association Outdoor National Championships.
Darrington is an isolated western Washington town with a population of only 1,500.

But last weekend it was the capital of the nation’s field archery scene.

And Ron Babcock and Jerry Gibson of La Grande made their presence felt at the 65th annual National Field Archery Association Outdoor National Championships.

Gibson placed third in the senior men’s freestyle limited category, and Babcock took second in the men’s freestyle limited division.

Gene Erwin, a member of the Grande Ronde Bowman, said that the significance of Babcock’s and Gibson’s accomplishments should not be overlooked, since the tournament draws some of the nation’s premier archers.

“Everyone there had the intention of winning,’’ Erwin said.

The competition put not only the skills of archers to the test but also their conditioning. Archers fired four arrows at 28 targets each day over a four-day period.

“It’s an endurance event,’’ Babcock said.

Babcock and Gibson had prepared for the tournament by firing 100 to 150 arrows a day, four to seven days a week.

This was Babcock’s fifth appearance at nationals and Gibson’s second. Babcock last competed at the outdoor nationals in 2003, and Gibson competed at the 2007 outdoor nationals.

Babcock and his wife, Michelle, are the owners of Alpine Archery. Gibson is an employee at Alpine Archery.

The outdoor nationals are different than many other archery tournaments for there are not large crowds of people at the competition site. Archers fire at targets along a forest trail with the party of about four competitors they are with.

“It’s like a golf tournament,’’ Ron Babcock said of the event, which started July 28 and ended Sunday.

Babcock said that in a competitive setting it is important to remain relaxed and not hurry.

“You want to get into a rhythm,’’ Babcock said.

He said it is important to resist the temptation to let other shooters dictate your shot speed and style at competitive events. For example, an archer who normally fires four arrows in four minutes but shoots four in a minute because he or she feels pressure to hurry will not do as well, Babcock said.

Forgetting about mistakes and moving on is also critical during a tournament.

“If you shoot a bad arrow, you have to let it go. Otherwise it will eat you alive,’’ Gibson said.

Archers fired at distances from 11 to 80 yards. The bull’seye for the 80-yard targets was only 5 inches in diameter.

Targets were located in a scenic rain forest setting that features, cedar, alder and maple trees — and quite a bit of old growth.

The trails the target sites are along are covered with moss and ferns.

“That is one of the neatest things,’’ said Babcock, a member of the Grande Ronde Bowmen.

The tournament site has five courses including one which is handicapped accessible.

Darrington has hosted the tournament 10 times since 1982.

Babcock said the town does an excellent job of putting on the tournament.

“The whole community gets involved,’’ he said.

Darrington has only one small motel, but it takes a lot of steps to accommodate archers. Some people rent their homes to competitors, and areas are made available for RV parking.

The tourney drew about 400 archers. Babcock said the Grande Ronde Bowmen of Union County may put in an application to host the NFAA Outdoor National Field Championships when it returns to the West in three or four years.