Archery phenom shoots for Athlete of Year title
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Compound archery phenom Alexis Ruiz: calm, cool, steady as an arrow.
Slows her breathing.
Sloooowwws her breathing.
Sings in her head sometimes when she shoots; counts most of the time.
Inhale, exhale, draw, transfer … release …
Alexis Ruiz: the zen in the hurricane.
It’s that quality that has propelled her so exceptionally through her sport of compound archery and how, at just 20 years old, the Grand Canyon University student has accomplished the seemingly unreachable in her incredible debut international season on the Archery World Cup circuit.
One commentator last year described her as the “teenage sensation (who) has taken the archery world by storm this year.” USA Archery News said Ruiz at one title match was an “international standout” — a young “hotshot” hungry for the gold who soared through match play.
It’s no wonder why.
In her ventures around the world in 2019, the biggest was the Hyundai Archery World Cup, a four-stage international tournament in which Ruiz brought home bronze medals from Medellin, Columbia, and Shanghai, China; a silver from Antalya, Turkey; and a gold from Berlin — her first international gold medal.
She was the only archer, male or female, to win a medal at all four events and also helped Team USA win two golds, a silver and two mixed-team titles in the Archery World Cup.
Only the top 32 athletes qualified for the final in September in Moscow; she was one of them.
Those wins helped earned Ruiz a No. 1 ranking in the world in women’s compound archery.
All those accomplishments could be why World Archery nominated her for Athlete of the Year – an award decided not just by expert panel vote but by public vote, too (vote here through midnight Jan. 31 Central European Time, which is 4 p.m. Jan. 30 Arizona time). The competition encompasses six categories: recurve men and women, compound men and women, and para men and women.
She also is in the running for Breakthrough Archer of the Year, an award decided by expert panel only.
Ruiz’s path to archery began when she was just 10 years old.
She wanted to be like her dad, who hunts with a bow. As serendipity would have it, she found out her charter school, Hearn Academy in Phoenix, participated in the National Archery in Schools program.
She signed up and took to the sport immediately. Just a few months later, she qualified for nationals though she didn’t attend that year.
In 2018, Ruiz won the notoriously hard-to-win Vegas Shoot. More than 100 women from around the world competed in her class that year.
“The best of the best come here,” Ruiz said of the tournament in a GCU Today article from 2018.
It was her biggest tournament win yet, and her momentum hasn’t slowed one bit.
Ruiz credits much of her success to the hours of practice she puts in.
“I train every day for four to six hours,” said Ruiz, who shoots up to 300 arrows in practice. “And I work out to keep up my strength and endurance.”
Outside of her dedication to the physical game, she also keeps her mental game sharp, too.
Although the adrenaline might be barreling through her, you’d never know it. Somehow, she keeps all that adrenaline, all those nerves and all those emotions at bay.
“I use a mental management system,” she said. “The guy who made it was an Olympic rifle shooter.”
Besides traveling to compete in Colombia, China, Turkey and Germany, Ruiz recently competed in the first event of the Indoor Archery World Series for 2019-2020 in Macau. And in December, she shot at the Roma Archery Trophy event, also part of the 2019-20 Indoor Archery World Series.
With her tough physical and mental game, Ruiz made every team she could make in her rookie season, except for one.
“I had one of the best rookie years there has been,” said Ruiz, who loves the game because it’s something anyone can do.
She loves the feeling. too, of everything coming together as it should — when the universe aligns and she achieves that perfect shot. There’s no better feeling, she said.
Ruiz will have plenty more chances to do just that. She’ll be traveling to more competitions in 2020 with her coach, Mel Nichols, who led the USA Olympic Archery Team in 2012 at the London games and in 2016 at the Rio de Janeiro games. Her mom will be traveling with her, too, to some of those games.
Next up is a competition in Nimes, France, in January, another competition in Lancaster, Pa., in February, and then it’s back to Las Vegas on Feb. 8 for the Indoor Archery World Series Finals, where the Athlete of the Year will be announced.
You can reach GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults at [email protected] or at 602-623-7901.
USA Archery News: Alexis Ruiz wins first world cup stage in incredible rookie season