By Otha Barham
The Meridian Star
Brandel Russell went to the purported most prestigious indoor archery target competition in the world in Las Vegas, Nevada February 6-8 and accomplished an astonishing feat, finishing 8th in a field of 822 shooters. These archers were from 19 different countries, World Archery having combined with World Cup Finals to jointly sponsor this acknowledged Super Bowl of indoor archery. Projected payout for winners was $250,000.
Brandel, who lives near Collinsville in Newton County, set his sights on this event with extraordinary dedication. “I tried to shoot without changing my ordinary routine,” he noted. “I even had my regular breakfast of six Oreos and a Mountain Dew every day, just like I was home,” he added, referring to his good luck meal to start his competition days.
With all shooting classes, the total field reached 2,200 archers, from amateurs to professionals; even Olympic archers. The event was held in the Las Vegas South Point Hotel and Casino, one of the few hotels in the city that could house, feed and entertain entrants and provide a competition arena.
Russell shot a score of 300 out of a possible 300 on the first day of the three day shoot that put him in the top 100 shooters. His score on day two was 299 and he found himself in an elite top 10! On the final day, only approximately 30 archers remained at the top in the men's open division. Brandel shot a perfect score of 300, only after gut wrenching mental preparation. He had not competed here before, but had trained intensively for 12 years. His emotions were high. He did not look at the leader board while competing, concentrating completely on his targets. He knew getting in the top 100 archers was something quite commendable. Then when he reached the top 30, everyone considered that worth celebrating. Before the final shoot, Russell turned loose his emotions with sobbing and it likely relaxed him to be ready to go out and shoot that perfect 300 and finish eighth.
Place finishes are determined by the number of hits in a tiny, dime size ring in the center of the targets.
Friends and family gave Brandel a surprise dinner for celebrating upon is return. Doubtless he ate well, because during the competition he could eat very little. “I begged my body to eat,” he said. But his nerves were on edge and in control. “It was a weight I almost couldn't carry,” he said, typical pressure felt by many champions in competitive sports. But in his case carrying that weight brought him pride and enormous respect in the field of archery. Too, he said his confidence was as high as it could go.