Glory in his sights
After watching his friends win Olympic silver medals, Scandia archer Jeremiah Cusick aims for 2016 games
To fans of the Red, White and Blue, Brady Ellison, Jake Kaminski and Jacob Wukie were the first stars of this summer’s Olympics. To Scandia’s Jeremiah Cusick, those three are just his buds from down the hall.
Cusick was back in his hometown for the London games and – like the rest of us – watched on TV as the trio of American archers shocked three-time defending Olympic champion South Korea en route to a silver medal on the first day of the Olympics.
For almost all of the past 18 months, Cusick has lived in close quarters with the now-famous competitors. Together, they form half of the men in USA Archery’s Resident Training Program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA.
“I’m good friends with all of them,” says Cusick, a member of the Forest Lake High School Class of 2011. “We all hang out all the time.”
Besides trekking the globe together for competitions, the residents relax together, as well. Cusick often goes fishing with Ellison and Wukie.
He was excited to see the team come within two points of a gold medal but not surprised. That none of the three picked up an individual medal was more of a shock to Cusick, given what he has seen while shooting side-by-side with them six days per week.
Though he could not go along across the pond, Cusick has kept in touch with his friends via Facebook.
“They’re all really excited about their silver medal,” he said.
Moving On Up
One or two points can make all the difference in archery, but even though Cusick did not make this year’s three-man Olympic squad, he is not all too far removed from those who did.
His skill has increased greatly since entering full-time training at the center in February of 2011, and his results have mirrored that. Cusick currently sits ninth in the men’s national rankings. He has two events left this summer in which to move up one spot and reach the sport’s pinnacle in 2013 as a member of the Senior United States Archery Team. The top half of the senior squad competes in the World Cup circuit while the other four members compete in other large tournaments that count toward the world rankings.
Cusick’s first chance to make up points comes Aug. 21-24 in California and the qualifying closes with a meet in Texas from Sept. 16-19. The archer he trails closely for the final spot is also his roommate. Ellison – the world’s top-ranked archer – Kaminski and Wukie occupy three of the top four spots.
If Cusick fails to move up, he will not be part of a U.S. team next year but will still be allowed to continue training at the center and will compete at tournaments independently.
He is on the junior national team this summer after making the cadet team in 2011. Cusick helped USA to a bronze medal in the junior team division of the World Indoor Championships held February in Las Vegas. Another milestone followed in April, as Cusick took bronze individually at the Gator Cup, a senior-level tournament in Newberry, FL.
Last October, he bowed out in the first round of trials for the Olympic team.
“I just wasn’t ready at that time,” Cusick said, figuring he placed 17th or 18th. “Shooting like I am now, I would’ve had no problem shooting in the top 10.”
Indeed, the 19-year-old is hitting the bullseye more often than ever.
“I’ve definitely improved a lot and learned a ton,” he says. “It’s really just a good place to train. There are no distractions and you can shoot all day and get good training in.”
Cusick regards national team coach KiSik Lee as the best coach in the world. The South Korea native recently re-upped to stay onboard through 2016. The residents’ workload includes training with sensor-equipped helmets that monitor levels of focus. Off-range training includes weight lifting and mental exercises.
Residents get one week off every three months, and the complex is essentially shut down during the Olympics. The archers will soon benefit from a multi-million-dollar expansion of the facility.
All in all, Cusick is excited for his prospects for 2016. Kaminski, 23, is expected to stay in the resident program while Ellison, 23, and Wukie, 26, are set to leave. All three will remain among Cusick’s top competition for a ticket to that summer’s Olympics in Brazil.
“I’m pretty confident,” he says. “I’m going to try pretty hard for it. It’s a dream.”