By Perry Smith
Like many of his peers vying for a spot on the U.S. National Archery team, Zach Garrett found his love of archery at a young age. By the time he graduated from tiny Wellington Napoleon High School in Wellington, Missouri, he was well on his way. For Garrett, the decision was influenced by a lack of distractions in the tiny Lafayette County town he grew up in with a population of 812. “I’ve always told people,” he joked about his “very, very rural” hometown, “there’s nothing to do out here but get good at a sport.” And sure enough, he’s done that, joining a pair of gymnasts as famous athletic alumni from his Midwestern hometown.
“There’s absolutely nothing to do in the area, so you might as well do something productive” was Garrett’s attitude toward archery, once he found it was something he truly loved, he said. He started shooting at age 4, when his grandfather got him his first bow. By age 8, he was already competing with 4-H, a national youth organization program especially popular in rural areas. By the time Garrett was in high school at age 14, he decided it was something he was going to take seriously, “I always had it in the back of my head I was going to do this,” Garrett said of his Olympic aspirations. After having success in a national tournament in Texas with Missouri’s 4-H team, he thought he might be on to something. “I went and shot there and I came back and I thought, ‘Man I really want to do it,’” he said, of making the national team.
He soon arranged a meeting with Steve Cornell, an Olympic Development Program archery coach for the national team’s center in Springfield, Missouri, who was coaching in Ohio at the time, Garrett said. “He encouraged me to go to Nationals by his house,” Garrett said of his first taste of national competition in Hamilton, Ohio. He went on to earn a bronze in the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) Olympian Awards in 2013, and also earned Grand National Champion status in Juniors, the eldest division that same year. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Garrett, he said. “It was a very rapid progression for me, I guess,” the 20-year-old said, discussing his progress after making the junior national team. “I went from nobody knowing me at all to people having a pretty good idea who I was,” he said. “It was crazy.”
Since that competition, Garrett’s stock has steadily risen in the archery world, with his ultimate goal — earning a spot on the men’s national team for the recurve — certainly a possibility in the near future. He was No. 11 in the national rankings before the recent Texas Shootout, which he knew would be a crucial competition. Garrett now trains full time at Easton’s Chula Vista training facility, which is where he and his peers at the height of their sport hone their craft.
Garrett’s most recent competition at the Texas Shootout Championship saw him at the podium earning a gold medal for the men’s recurve Sept. 28 — in the men’s senior division this time. And it also showed he has what it takes to compete at the highest level. Despite breezy conditions that made it difficult, Garrett earned gold after a back-and-forth with past Olympic gold winner Butch Johnson of Woodstock, Conn.,” according to TeamUSA Archery website story.
As Garrett continues to work toward his dream of a shot at Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro, he said he still tries to learn from every shot as he trains six to eight hours every day. “It’s about looking at everything really objectively,” he said, relating it to how he tries to approach life, as well. “You make a shot and you have to kind of turn yourself into a computer in a way — you take a shot you analyze it, you learn from it and you go on.”