Former Sweet Home resident wins world archery title

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

Former Sweet Home resident Melissa (McCubbins) Swanson won a world archery championship and set two records in Australia last month.

Swanson, who now lives in Springfield, traveled to Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia June 12-17 to compete in the bi-annual World Field Championships. She said she competed among some 600 archers in several divisions. Swanson competed in the adult female bowhunter division.

“We really enjoyed Australia,” Swanson said. “The people were extremely kind everywhere we went.”

During the tournament, competitors fired four arrows at 28 different targets each day for five days, a total of 560 scoring arrows.

In her division, Swanson used a compound bow with no sights and shot with her fingers, not a mechanical release. She shot a 475.

Each of the 28 targets, like playing 18 holes of golf, is different, Swanson said. Each target is one of three styles, and ranges are varied for each target. She said her scores were highest ever on two of the targets.

She said she was pleased with the first two days of the competition, but not so much with the rest of the tournament, she said.

“I had some glitches with my equipment at the end of the week.”

She was happy with her form and was “shooting well, shooting strong,” she said. With the equipment breakdowns, “my point lead was so (high) it didn’t hurt me. I was leading by about 200 points total.”

On Thursday of that week, she was ahead by “probably 170 points.”

“No woman in the world ever shot a 500 score,” she said. “That’s my goal.”

That was her biggest disappointment with how she did in the tournament.

The ranges were flat, and she was confident going into it, she said. “I just know I could have shot a 500.”

In her division, she was not allowed to adjust or repair her bow during the week, she said. A bow is tuned like a musical instrument, different parts adjusted for ideal shooting. Swanson said her bow essentially went out of tune.

Swanson, whose parents Frank and Jo McCubbins live in Sweet Home, appeared in The New Era at age 11 in 1982 for winning a national tournament under the coaching of her mother, who was shooting in the 1950s and is a current archery Hall of Fame inductee. She also won a world title in New Zealand 10 years ago and has won a variety of national tournaments, both as a member of teams and individually.

“I’m just proud as a peacock, thrilled to death,” Jo McCubbins said. “Now we coach each other, and that’s true about everybody in the family. We all coach each other.”

Archery is a way of life for the family. Nearly everyone in her family enjoys the sport, some competitively and others for fun.

Since winning her national title, Swanson has had a number of coaches besides her mother and has gotten help from other archers, including a Russian Olympics coach.

That’s part of the reason the United States has so much success in international archery events, she said. In the United States, “archers are really good friends. You help each other. You want to beat your competition on their best day.”

In Australia, archers don’t share their knowledge with each other, Swanson said. Noting the difference, Australians told her they could see why Americans have the best scores.

“I know for a fact that when you win a championship at this level, you’re really standing on the shoulders of a lot of friends and family members,” Swanson said.

Sometimes, it’s not as direct as coaching, she said. Her 12-year-old son, Conlan, put up with her in the months before the competition.

“I haven’t cooked a meal in six months preparing for this,” Swanson said. Housework didn’t always get done. In the end, she said, Conlan helped her achieve the world champion title.

Conlan attended the tournament with his mother and father, Keith, who also competed and finished sixth in the freestyle division.

“The truth is, Oregon did quite well,” Swanson said. Two archers from Eugene and Klamath Falls also finished first in their divisions and a third Oregon archer finished third.

Swanson does a variety of odd jobs, ranging from house cleaning to computer work. She also is a certified archery coach and coaches children and adults.

Balancing coaching and competing can be difficult, she said. “When I’m getting ready for a tournament, my students are getting ready for the same tournament.”

While she needs to be getting ready for the tournament, she’s busy getting her students ready too, and sometimes finds it difficult to prepare herself, she said.

“I’m finding that coaching works out well if I’m not trying to get ready for competition,” she said.