UC Irvine has extraordinary, yet unknown, athletes such as Ruben Hipolito whom we should all know about. He is the number-one archer in the Western Region, and is heading to nationals where he will face the best archers in the world. He recently won the Western Regional Championship for collegiate archery against teams from as far as Ohio. He won three of the three events at the tournament.
The tournaments are highly competitive, as the shooters must stay consistent. The first round is a game against yourself, as all of the shooters attempt to tally up the most points from four different distances: 90, 70, 50 and 30 meters. For two hours, they shoot 36 arrows at each distance, needing pure concentration and muscle control. At the completion of all the distances, the points are tallied and the shooters are ranked into a bracket system. Hipolito was ranked first after the qualification round giving him a high confidence level going into the Olympic round.
The Olympic round is shot at 70 meters in a head-to-head format where each shooter is given 12 arrows to outscore his or her opponent. This is the point in the tournament where the real competitive nature of the athletes comes out, as they have only 30 seconds to set up and shoot their next arrow.
“When you shoot, you have to take into account the wind and how much it is going to blow you out. If you do even a slight little twist to your wrist it will throw off your shot by a lot,” Hipolito said.
The sport requires an unbelievable amount of focus and discipline. Shooting requires an incredible amount of muscle memory and the ability to distribute pressure on certain muscles, while maintaining a perfect form before releasing the arrow at a precise moment. A shooter must do all of this in order to make sure the arrow comes out as straight as possible. If any of these factors get skewed, the shot will be off and you can only hope that your competitor does worse.
For the last round of the Western Regional Championships, or the Gold Medal round, Hipolito engaged in a huge battle with Cal State Long Beach’s Brendan Hurt in the Compound division. The Compound Bow is the most technologically complex bow, and therefore the most accurate and most competitive. As the eliminated archers watched, the game quickly filled with pressure. But Hipolito rose to the challenge and edged out Hurt for the win by only one point to make the final score 106-107.
With the first place finish at Regional’s, Hipolito is now set to compete in Cape May, N.J. at the United States Intercollegiate Championships on May 15-18. This is a big challenge for Hipolito as he will test his ability against some of the best Compound shooters in the world. The number-one ranked shooter in the world, Braden Gallenthien, will be representing Virginia’s James Madison University. He recently won the Indoor World Championships. However, Hipolito is more than confident that he will not only compete, but place very high by the end of the weekend. “I think I am going to do really well, because I have been practicing a lot. I think I can easily break the top ten.”
Hipolito will represent UCI with confidence and drive. There are quite a few post-college opportunities for archery and Hipolito is working toward becoming a professional archer. His coach, Gary Holestein, has taken Hipolito from a relatively inexperienced shooter to the top of the collegiate ranks. “Most of the top college archers have been shooting and competing for 8-10 years,” Holestein said. Comparatively, Ruben has been shooting for just over 18 months. He has improved steadily, and is currently the number-one ranked male in the College Compound archer in the United States Western Region.” With the support of his coach, Ruben Hipolito has a very legitimate chance at finals to become one of the best archers in the country.
He is just another example of how the Irvine club sports program produces extraordinary athletes. These students train extremely hard. The catch is they do not receive any of the perks that the collegiate athletes receive. It is truly an honor to watch athletes like Hipolito compete and make a name for themselves on a national level.