By Cassie Ordonio
Rudy Sandoval Jr. wakes up at 5:30 a.m. every day with one thing on his mind, and it involves a bow and arrows.
The former City College student drives to the San Francisco Archery Range, located on Rifle Range Road in Pacifica, to perform his daily routine as the smell of burning wood from the range’s fire pit fills the air.
“It’s like my meditation,” Sandoval said, stretching. “In archery you have to be flexible and relaxed.”
He leans to the left and then he leans to the right. He bends forward and then slowly brings his body back. Stretching is mandatory, his physical therapist said, in order to avoid nerve pain in his legs from a spinal injury a few years ago.
Raising his bow from the ground, Sandoval sets his stance and draws an arrow from his quiver. As he slowly raises his bow, he fixes his eyes and aim on the target while pulling the string of his bow back to where his hand meets his face. He slowly exhales, releases the string, and then swoosh, a bull’s-eye!
Then two, three and four arrows gracefully follow the first. Five, six, seven and eight—X marks the spot.
“I want to make sure I hit the target, so I aim low and slowly work my way up,” he said.
There’s a technique Sandoval learned to keep the arrows from hitting each other in the center.
Getting into Archery
Sandoval attended City College from 2005 to 2009. He was originally an accounting major but had no passion for it.
“It sounded right at the time,” he said. “I was just going with the motions because the thought of making good money. Society says you have to go to school and you have to major in business. It just didn’t feel right.”
Sandoval stumbled upon archery when he was looking for a physical education class at City College. An avid hunter, he was also looking for a new method to shoot deer.
“Diana Nagura is an excellent teacher,” Sandoval said of City College’s archery instructor of more than 25 years and an accomplished archer in her own right. “She’s very passionate about all the sports that she teaches. With archery, you can tell that was probably her favorite to teach.”
“There’s definitely an awesome feeling you get from shooting a bow that I think is deeply rooted to our genetics as human beings.”
—Rudy Sandoval Jr.
Sandoval threw out his back on vacation in 2012 while bending over to pick something up. Over the course of several days the pain became steadily worse. He discovered he had a herniated disk, and to make matters worse, his back suffered further damage due to complications from the epidural he received during treatment.
Sandoval’s injury was so severe he was placed in a wheelchair for about three months. Doctors thought he would never be able to walk again, but that didn’t stop him from doing what he enjoys.
Nagura allowed Sandoval to shoot from his wheelchair and he went to physical therapy where slowly but surely he taught himself how to walk again.
Sandoval’s passion for archery is part of what drove him to get back on his feet.
“Passion? It’s more of an obsession,” he said. “There’s definitely an awesome feeling you get from shooting a bow that I think is deeply rooted to our genetics as human beings.”
After emptying his quiver of arrows, Sandoval walks toward the target and yanks out each arrow one by one. As he heads back to shoot another round, a look of pride washes over his face as he stares at his bow.
Two fellow archers standing next to him observe his metallic orange bow glistening in the few sunrays tearing through the cold Pacifica fog.
“Hey! New bow? You happy with it?” one of the archers inquires.
Sandoval’s new Hoyt HyperEdge bow is only two days old, assembled by Sandoval himself during a training session for dealers at the company.
Sandoval moves to the next field. This one is surrounded by trees and a pathway leading to four different target ranges.
On an average day, Sandoval shoots 100 to 200 arrows. Normally he begins at 60 yards from the target. Today, he starts off at 10 yards and records how many arrows he shot from each distance.
“Sometimes you have to break that routine like you would do when you work out,” he said.
Sandoval’s been working out a lot lately. Four rounds of eight arrows later, he dashes to retrieve the arrows but his pants begin to fall off his hips.
“Sorry I’m losing my pants here,” he says, blushing as he pulls them up. “I’ve lost some weight.”
Sandoval has struggled with his fluctuating weight. He started off at 290 pounds, then experimented with a calorie-cutting diet which made him go him down to 215 pounds but caused him to lose some muscle strength. After his spinal injury in 2012, he gained about 50 pounds.
“I’m beyond the healing point,” Sandoval said of his injury. Now, “It’s all about getting into shape.”
Sandoval now works out two to three times a week at an intense boot camp in Emeryville, in addition to the time he spends at the range. He discontinued his medication. He’s also been reading “Primal Endurance” by endurance athlete Mark Sisson which caused him to change his diet this past month.
“It’s about changing your biology so that your body can become a fat-burning machine,” he said.
Aiming for New Heights
With some of his most challenging days behind him, Sandoval now works at Pacifica Archery in Daly City, selling bows and other gear, where he employs two skills he learned at City College: archery and how run a business.
On Sundays Sandoval coaches students at the San Francisco Archery Range in Pacifica to prepare them for future tournaments, while he also prepares for his own.
A veteran of more than 100 competitions, he is currently training for the Western Classic, an annual three-day national tournament with 3-D targets, held in Redding, California May 6 through 8. He placed first in both the 2013 Grape Stakes and the 2015 Cotton Boll Classic “compound men senior” category.
Sandoval said he goes to every tournament with the mentality that he has what it takes to win. “Otherwise why do it at all? I have worked hard and know I can do it if I keep my mental game strong.”
“I learned things later on in my life: that you should always pursue things that make you happy,” he said. “Momentarily, you will be rewarded. For me things just fell into place.”
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