By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
Derry Null is a national and world champion, but even he isn’t immune to every archer’s worst nightmare — target panic.
“What it is, is an anticipation of the shot, and any seasoned archer at some point in time is going to go through it,” the Ohio man said Thursday at St. Bernard for the opening day of the Archery Shooters Association Classic. “That’s what I’ve been fighting with, and I’ve just gotten it under control in the last couple weeks. I’m a 26-time national and six-time world champion, so it kind of hurts your feelings when you don’t perform as well as you know you can.”
Null, who’s been traveling the ASA circuit since the mid-’90s, won’t have to wait long to see if he’s truly been freed of his funk. He’ll hit the range with the rest of the senior pros today at 9 a.m. and wrap up competition on Saturday with a 7:30 a.m. start.
With another world championship on the line, nerves are the last thing Null wants to worry about. To him, the difference between winning and losing often comes down to who’s best at keeping their emotions in check.
“If you’re playing football, basketball, baseball, whatever, you get to run and release the adrenaline,” Null said. “In archery, there’s no physical release, so you have to learn to mentally manage that adrenaline and not let it take over your game. It’s a whole different approach.”
Null has now made the trek from Ohio both years the ASA’s season-ending event has been hosted in Cullman. He had the most glowing of reviews to offer Thursday as he strolled the expansive archer’s village set up behind St. Bernard’s gymnasium.
“Motels are plenty accessible, food’s accessible and the woods are great for 3-D shoots,” Null said. “There’s not a downside that we can see anywhere.”
Aside from archery, the longtime professional said he plans to take in today’s Celebrate Cullman festival. Though the community-based event launched in 2011 following the aftermath of the April 27 tornado, it has grown exponentially the last two years with thousands of archers in town for the weekend.
“We enjoy local culture wherever we go,” Null said. “I’m from Ohio, but I’m happier in the South. I think the southern people are more hospitable, more laid back and more enjoyable to be around, so I’m happy being down here.”
As far as Earl Farrior is concerned, there might be fun to be had in the city and surrounding area. If any of it interferes with his ability to perform at a high level, though, he’s not interested.
The North Carolina archer liked what he saw of Cullman when he arrived Wednesday afternoon but already had his sights set firmly on the goal at hand — a title in the senior open division.
“Performance-wise for the weekend, I’m lucky enough to be peer grouped and starting on target No. 1 for the main championship on Saturday and Sunday, so I just want to stay focused, shoot my game and see how it comes out at the end,” said Farrior, who’s shot at all but one of the ASA’s events this season. “I’m just focused right here on the shooting right now.”
Like Farrior, there’s a lot on the line for Whitney Meadows. The women’s pro from Virginia wasn’t able to make the trip to Cullman for last year’s Classic but was in awe as she took part in Thursday’s team shoot competition.
“The terrain is beautiful. The ranges are beautiful. I love it,” Meadows said. “Everybody here has been very helpful, and we’re camping right in the parking lot, so that helps, too.”
Just because Meadows and her two children have made their home for the weekend in the friendly confines of St. Bernard’s campus doesn’t mean she doesn’t plan on “going out and doing a little lookin’.
“We’ve hit most of it here, but we want to go out in town and look and see,” she said. “It’s nice to come to new places because you never know what you’re going to find out riding around.”
A trip to Alabama — even if it’s for the largest of archery tournaments — just wouldn’t be complete without a conversation about college football.
Meadows’ home in Christiansburg, Va., is just six miles from Virginia Tech, close enough for her to hear the football program’s famous cannon go off on gamedays. Her father worked at the university for 26 years, and she is by all means a “Hokie fan” through and through.
Imagine Meadows had something to say about the upcoming opener between Virginia Tech and Alabama, which is slated for Aug. 31 at the Georgia Dome?
“Early on, it’s going to be tough for Tech. They’ve got some new people and some coaching changes, but I think it’ll be a good game if they have their heads on straight. But if they don’t, it’s going to be a blowout,” she said with a laugh.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.