For Cameron McLeod, the third time was the charm. As a matter of fact, so were the first and second times.
McLeod, a junior environmental science and policy major at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB), recently captured his third straight Basic Bow men’s division title at the U.S. Collegiate Archery Association’s (USCA) 2013 National Indoor Championship.
The competition was held at eight sites throughout the nation—Mt. Marty College in South Dakota, University of New Hampshire, Atlantic Cape Community College in New Jersey, Texas A&M University, Georgia Southern University, Tulare Target Archers in Tulare, Calif., Southern Utah University and Michigan State University. McLeod competed at the Tulare site.
The three-time champion edged out Chad Roberge from the University of New Hampshire, 848-841. In 2012 he beat out UC Merced’s Kevin Kwan, 841- 835, and as a freshman he dominated the field, defeating runner-up Michael Tracht from the University of Chicago by a score of 924-706.
Like most indoor collegiate tournaments, the round target has a 40-centimeter face with archers receiving 10 points for a bull’s-eye, nine points for the next ring out and so on. The target is 18 meters away (about 60 feet), and competitors shoot four rounds, called ends, of 30 arrows. Each participant shoots a total of 120 arrows, divided evenly over two days of competition.
“I was definitely feeling the pressure at nationals this year, especially after being outshot at state. I was nervous going into it, and extraordinarily relieved to know that I won,” said McLeod, who is a 2009 graduate of Long Beach Poly High School. “But, I wouldn’t be surprised if the competition is better next year. When you’re shooting, you have to pay attention to nothing but your shot. You have to keep your head in it all the way through. I stay pretty stone-faced during competition. I don’t let people get into my head; I just shut everything out. I’ll practice more next year because I feel like I just scraped by this time. I know I have shot much better in previous years.
“I hate shooting with sites,” he added. “That’s why I shoot bare bow. There are no sites and no stabilizers. It’s an instinctive method of shooting and it’s something that kind of came to me. When I picked up a bare bow for the first time, I shot a couple of arrows and thought, ‘This is alright. This is shooting with your guts.’ I enjoy shooting bare bow because it’s a challenge and instinctive. It’s something I connect with.”
McLeod credits Bob Bingham, a partner and coach at the Archery Outpost in nearby Los Alamitos, with a great deal of his success. Bingham isn’t surprised by his student’s success.
“Once in a while you run into a student who is really dedicated and he does what you ask him to do and if he can’t do it, he works on getting there, and that is Cameron,” said Bingham. “He is definitely goal-oriented and he works his tail off to get better. He has really good hand-eye coordination and I saw the potential immediately. Not everybody understands the mathematics of shooting, but he gets it.”
McLeod said he was surprised when he won the title in his first season, having really only joined the archery team at CSULB as a way to pick up extra time to shoot.
“I wanted to keep up my practicing. Little did I know, when I showed up, the bare bow division was pretty small nationwide,” said McLeod, who noted that the size of the division has more than tripled in the last three years, and the USCA has grown as well. “When I won it the first year, I thought, ‘Well, that was cool’ and then I won it again. This year I had some family issues and school was stacking up, which didn’t leave me as much time to practice as I wanted leading up to nationals.”
McLeod said being edged out in the state tournament by six points was kind of an awakening for him.
“That really knocked me back,” he said. “I went, ‘Holy mackerel. I won the national championship the last two years in a row and just got outshot at state.’ Granted, he was a good shooter, but I know I can shoot better than him.”
“He was always a natural when it came to archery,” said teammate and archery club president Kalie Sabajo, a recent CSULB graduate with a degree in music education who is currently working on her teaching credential. “The first day he came out to the club, we were all talking about how well he was shooting, especially for a bare bow shooter. He’s been able to hold the indoor national title for three years now and we’re all very proud of his accomplishments.”
“I was impressed with his shooting skill in his bare bow style,” said CSULB archery team coach Mike Burnham. “Then he proved himself by placing first in three consecutive national indoor championship tournaments. I am not specifically trained or experienced to coach someone shooting in the bare bow division so cannot claim any credit for his performance. He’s just a natural.”