At the Eagle Eye Archers club in Prince Rupert, 16-year-old Dylon Cruz goes through his archery routine.
Standing at a marker 18 metres away from his target, he selects an arrow and knocks it in his bow. Keeping his head level and elbow high, he sights his target down the length of the arrows shaft. Barely breathing, he releases the arrow, launching it straight and true. He hits his target dead centre, as has become the norm for Cruz these days.
Archery has been Cruz’s passion since moving to Prince Rupert from Belize in 2016. He said his dad, Omar, was always an archer and introduced him to the sport when he arrived in his new home. Now, nearly a year-and-a-half later, Cruz will be competing as an archer in the upcoming BC Winter Games. It’s an opportunity he relishes.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I love archery, I love to shoot and I can’t wait.”
The new recruit has been eager, willing to learn something new. He quickly latched onto the sport and excelled. Cruz said it was the welcoming environment of the club that kept him coming back.
“Everybody was really nice to me,” he said. “They gave me tips about what I was doing well and what I was doing wrong.
“If I made a mistake, they showed me how to do it in a nice way.”
Cruz’s two coaches, Fred Hutchings and Andy Vandermeer said Cruz has always had a good eye for the sport, but it is his poise under pressure that allows him to do well at tougher competitions.
“He seems solid, and he doesn’t seem to be getting fazed,” said Hutchings. “I’ve seen some of our local kids fall apart because of the stress of the games, and I’ve seen some of them excel. I think Dylon is one that is going to be OK.”
Vandermeer gives Cruz special instruction for the specific type of compound bow he shoots. He met Cruz for the first time when he still lived in Belize and was there when he took his first few shots. He said Cruz clearly enjoys himself while competing, and particularly enjoys trying to beat his father.
“He’s a bit of a smack talker, but he doesn’t get fazed very much,” Vandermeer said. “He doesn’t get freaked out very easily.”
Vandermeer took Cruz under his wing when the young archer decided to go for the BC Winter Games’ team in September, and said the two have worked to improve his consistency to achieve maximum precision with his shots. That work includes two sessions a week of target practice where Cruz practices shooting at competition targets before completing other drills to improve his aim. They have also worked together on Cruz’s routine to make sure he goes through the same steps each and every time he moves up to the line.
“Consistency, that’s the biggest thing,” said Vandermeer. “That’s pretty much what archery is all about, doing the same thing repeatedly.”
Vandermeer added that Cruz has become stronger in the time they’ve worked together, which means he can fire with more power and accuracy.
“He can hold his bow at full draw for longer, which makes you hit the target quicker and leave less loft on the arrow when you fire,” he said.
For Cruz, participating in the winter games is about having fun competing in the sport that has become his passion. He said he plans to continue shooting long after the games are done, and even wants to instruct young archers in the future one day.
“My future is to become a good archer and go out there and show kids how to do it,” he said. “So if kids don’t have a lot to do on the street, they can still have fun.”