HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — Gabe Crenshaw calls it his bow room.
The roughly 10-by-10-foot space inside his parents’ Hattiesburg home isn’t as much decorated as it is outfitted to meet his needs and reflect his passion for archery. Stacks of books on the subject line several bookshelves and fill a couple filing cabinets. The 17-year-old’s go-to text, “Idiot Proof Archery,” is well worn from many readings. Almost every page features highlighted — some blue, some pink, some orange — or underlined passages.
Medals, trophies, jerseys, a lamp and a bevy of equipment fill the rest of what can best be described as Crenshaw’s sanctuary. It’s inside the bow room where he’s in his element and fuels his passion. And when he’s not holed up in the bow room, he’s spending a minimum 3½ hours a day on his homemade backyard course perfecting his craft.
“I take weekends off sometimes,” he said. “But sometimes I’m out there longer than 3½ hours. And sometimes, I’ll shoot out there, then I’ll come inside and shoot (at targets inside the bow room).”
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Crenshaw only discovered his drive for archery — specifically, 3D archery — just more than a year ago. That’s when he took part in his first Archery Shooters Association event. The homeschool senior admittedly did not perform well.
But the seed was sown.
“When I finished, I came back and told dad, ‘This is something I really want to do,'” said Crenshaw, whose two favorite bows are nicknamed “Black Betty” and “Green Bean.”
“And once I shot the first (tournament) this year, it was just kind of like, ‘Game on.'”
Indeed. Since this year’s first tournament, Crenshaw qualified for nationals after taking fifth in compound archery at the 4-H State Invitational and was part of Team USA at the World Archery 3D Championships (which is open to archers of all ages) in Robion, France.
The practice of 3D archery features a format where competitors traverse an outdoor course shooting at specially designed three-dimensional foam targets that look like various game animals. Competitions feature a variety of settings where archers shoot toward their targets from varying distances and using certain settings.
One of just three American compound archers to make the team, Crenshaw was victimized by an equipment malfunction on day one of the tournament. Although he performed better on day two, there was too much ground to make up and he missed the cut. A few days later, Crenshaw served as part of the broadcast team that called the United States’ gold medal victory over Spain.
Despite his struggles overseas, all it did was wet Crenshaw’s appetite for the future.
“It was amazing,” he said. “Everything was so different. It was just kind of breathtaking getting to do what I love in a different country and meeting new people that have the same passion you do for archery was just incredible. And now, I want to be better than I was at the world championships. My goal is to make the 2019 world championships for 3D.
“And I want to win that one.”
Easier said than done, to be sure. But Michael Dear tends to put heavy stock into such declarations from Crenshaw. Dear, who has been involved in 4-H for more than a quarter-century, took over as shooting sports coordinator for the Lamar County 4-H program about five years ago. That’s when he first took notice of Crenshaw.
“Not many kids make it that far. Not many at all,” Dear said. “But Gabe is one of those exceptions. Once in a while, you spot one and say, ‘OK, here’s potential.'”
Dear said after about three years of tutelage, he recognized Crenshaw needed more than he could provide to help maximize his talent and potential.
“I said, ‘He’s beyond my coaching and my help,'” said Dear, a retiree who runs the Lamar County 4-H program’s shooting sports with his wife, Regina. “We needed to find him someone that could take him a step further. And each step he took, he improved himself. Everything he needed to do to get better, he made those steps.
“If he wants to become an Olympic shooter, then I perceive within a year or so, he will. Of course, he’s got to get by this world-class stuff and improve some there. He’s got to move up in the standings. But I perceive he will do that. I have that much confidence in his ability.”
Crenshaw’s father, Chris, was one of several family members to make the trip to France for the world championships.
“It’s unusual,” he said. “The gold medal team was a 68-year-old guy, a guy in his late 50s and the other guy was a 17-year-old. But it was great. After the two qualifying rounds, (Team USA) ended up seeded seventh, so they had to beat No. 2. Then, they had to shoot against Italy, the defending national champs and beat them by one point. Then, they beat Spain by one point in the gold medal match.”
Crenshaw’s next meet is the U.S. National 3D Collegiate Championship at Foley, Alabama, where he hopes to make a statement.
“I really want to win that one,” he said.
As far as what the future holds, Crenshaw is hopeful.
“You can definitely make a living doing it,” he said. “You can get sponsorships and win money shooting. That’s the dream. But one shot at a time.”