Babcock wins freestyle crown at national championships

By Dick Mason, The Observer July 08, 2011 08:00 pm

Ron Babcock of La Grande takes aim at a target at the recent National Field Archery Marked 3D Championships in Redding, Calif. (CLAYTON LOWE photo)
Ron Babcock of La Grande takes aim at a target at the recent National Field Archery Marked 3D Championships in Redding, Calif. (CLAYTON LOWE photo)

The text message would have given most people reason to jubilantly celebrate.

But not La Grande archer Ron Babcock. The message did not even elevate his pulse rate.

Babcock received the electronic note while traveling back from Redding, Calif., after competing in the recent National Field Archery Marked 3D Championships. The message came from a friend at the tournament. The friend wrote that Babcock, who had left before the awards ceremony, had placed first in the adult male freestyle division.

The La Grande archer did not take the legacy-defining news seriously.

“I was sure he was kidding,’’ Babcock said.

He explained that he thought the “joke’’ message was a carry over from the competition.

“There is a lot of verbal jousting at tournaments,’’ Babcock said with a smile.

The next day the official results were posted on the Internet and Babcock learned that his friend had not been pulling his leg. Babcock discovered he had pulled ahead late in the tournament to win the adult male freestyle division.

“I was quite surprised,’’ Babcock said.

The La Grande archer was sure he had blown his chance when he tripped with his bow halfway into the third and final round of the tournament. The fall damaged his bow, causing Babcock to completely miss the next target he fired at.

Minutes later Babcock had his bow in proper working order. Now he had to rally.

“I had missed 11 points (after his arrow failed to hit the target). It was frustrating. I just had to pick it up.’’

Babcock, with no margin for error, started totally focusing on his shot sequence.

Walking a fine line between intense focus but not pressing, Babcock finished the tournament with a surge.

Still he was certain it was too little too late. That was until Babcock learned he had officially tallied 1,455 points to top the men’s freestyle division. That was enough to finish nine points ahead of runner up Bob Carroll of Arizona.

“I was relieved,’’ Babcock said of his reaction to learning he had won.

He explained that winning was gratifying since he had been pursuing a national title for 18 years and has been frustrated at times after coming close to winning. One of those instances came in 2010  when Babcock placed second to Carroll at the same tournament. 

The significance of Babcock’s achievement should not be overlooked, said Gene Erwin of La Grande, a member of the Grande Ronde Bowmen and one of the most knowledgeable bowmen in the region. Erwin, who has been involved in archery here since the 1950s, said Babcock is the first man or woman from Union County to ever win a national archery tournament.

Erwin credits much of Babcock’s success to self discipline and technique.

“He is the best bow technician I’ve been around,’’ Erwin said.

Babcock also knows the tools of archery well.

“He is very knowledgeable about the intricacies of his equipment. He knows how little things will affect his bow,’’ Erwin said.

Babcock’s effectiveness is also enhanced by his professional background as a physical therapist. This has given him a working knowledge of anatomy which makes it easier for him to determine what he is doing wrong when he is off target, Erwin said.

The National Field Archery Marked 3D Championships were conducted at the Straight Arrow Bow Hunters course in Redding. Archers fired at everything from a model of a  butterfly from four yards to a huge sasquatch foot from 101 yards. Firing at the butterfly from four yards was just as difficult as trying to hit the sasquatch from 101 yards. The reason is the target on the butterfly was quite small. Babcock said many hours of practice firing at targets from short range paid dividends for him in Redding.

Much of the practice was done at his shop, Alpine Archery & Sport, owned by Babcock and his wife, Michelle.

The 3D archery course in Redding is in a forested area and is considered by many the best of its kind in the United States.

“It is the standard by which all other 3D courses are measured,’’ Babcock said.

A prominent feature of it is an array of 3D wildlife figures at each target site. At one site one may see buffalo, antelope, elk and deer, but only one of the realistic looking Styrofoam animals has a target.

“It is a park-like setting,’’ Babcock said.

The course also has artificial scenic backdrops that prevent archers from losing arrows. The picturesque Styrofoam backdrops catch errant arrows before they go into the forest. They also prevent archers from losing stray arrows to damage from collisions with rocks.

Redding, at 500 feet, is about 2,200 feet lower than La Grande. This combined with higher humidity makes the air considerably denser. Babcock had to make adjustments at the tournament as a result — adjustments that catapulted him to a status no

La Grande archer has reached before.