Curtis Broadnax and T.J. Strychalski: Two young archers on parallel courses to the top of the sport
On two successive weekends in the spring of 2017, two young men in their teens took on the big guns in archery and finished at the top of the heap.Curtis Broadnax, 17, of Georgia, won first place in the Compound Senior Male Division at the 2017 Gator Cup May 27. In head-to-head matches he beat well-known, veteran archers Tim Gillingham, Paul Tedford, Jacob Marlow and Braden Gellenthien en route to the gold medal.Just a week later, in London, Ky., T.J. Strychalski, 17, of Pennsylvania, finished in third place in the Known Pro Division at the 2017 Archery Shooters Association (ASA) TRU Ball/Axcel Pro-Am Championship. In doing so, he shot better than a long list of world-class archers, including Jesse Broadwater, David Houser, Chris Brackett and Donnie Thacker – to name a few.Broadnax and Strychalski. Both 17, and both on top of their games.And both said they were ready for their prime-time finishes thanks at least in part to the experience they gained in a match against each other in Las Vegas just a year-and-a-half earlier.“Oh I definitely felt the pressure,” Broadnax said of the Vegas competition. “That’s the most nervous I’ve ever been in an archery tournament.”“I had never been in a situation like that before,” Strychalski said. “But I can see that the more I’m out there like that, the easier it will become – hopefully.”The match, which was the Vegas Shoot 2016 Freestyle Young Adult Championship, is visible on YouTube, and has been watched more than 10,000 times since it was posted in February, 2016.Broadnax and Strychalski – both 16 at the time - shot on center stage at the tournament because they had finished their three rounds of competition with the same score – 898 out of a perfect 900. Normally, the young adults don’t shoot on the finals stage at Las Vegas, since the podium finishers in that division are determined simply by their scores over the three days of competition.Due to the tie scores, Broadnax and Strychalski had to shoot head to head, with the World Archery cameras rolling, under the spotlights in front of a packed competition arena. Both said they’d never shot in a situation like that before, but it’s something they acknowledged they will have to get used to if they plan to continue competing as professionals.“I knew the cameras were in my face, and I knew everybody was watching,” Broadnax said. “My heart was definitely pounding pretty hard in my chest.”If the pressure was bearing down on these two archers, it didn’t show in the first end of three arrows. They matched each other arrow for arrow, and had to shoot a second end. There, Broadnax emerged victorious.The match gave both a boost in confidence competing at a high level - not to mention attention from industry manufacturers - and both started competing as professionals for Elite Archery by 2017.They competed in the 2017 Vegas Shoot, Lancaster Archery Classic and at Archery Shooters Association (ASA) 3-D tournaments – all in the pro class.At the 2017 Gator Cup, Broadnax competed in the Junior Division, due to his age. He’s trying to make the USA Archery Junior Team that will compete in world championships.But when it comes to crowning the Gator Cup champions, there is no age division between juniors and seniors. The best shooters advance from qualifying, and Broadnax shot well enough to enter the head-to-head brackets in the 16th position out of 64 archers.He won all of his matches to earn the right to face Gellenthien for the gold medal. Broadnax won that match 140-137 – his first major tournament victory. His experience shooting against Strychalski on center stage at the 2016 Vegas Shoot helped him, he said, at least in the sense that this wasn’t his first time in the spotlight.“Honestly, through my matches, I was just worried about getting food, because I knew I needed to eat,” he said. “Other than that, I felt really good.”A week later, Strychalski found himself in the fifth and final position for the Known-Pro shootdown, after two days of competition at the London ASA tournament. He was back on a finals stage, but he was in last place among the five. How did he respond? He came out swinging, with a 14 on his first arrow, followed by three successive 12s, and then two 10s to finish.“I didn’t have anything to lose, so I just went for it,” he said.With cameras rolling and a huge crowd watching, Strychalski shot his way past Donnie Thacker and Tyler Marlow to take third place – his first podium as an ASA pro.Strychalski and Broadnax both have a year of high school left to complete, and both said they plan to go to college. They both also said they’d like to earn livings as professional archers.And it looks like they both have bright futures ahead.