CHAPMANVILLE — No one can say Ben Ferrell lacks ambition.
Three years ago, when he started competing in 3D archery, he could have shot in the 11- to 12-year age group. He chose instead to step up and shoot against 13- to 14-year-olds.
The move paid off handsomely this year, his final in the 13-14 group. Shooting in state, national and world competitions, he never finished lower than second, and recently was named the International Bowhunting Organization’s Shooter of the Year for his age class.
Ferrell admits he’s come a long way since he took up archery at age 11.
“I started off shooting in the Archery in the Schools program in middle school,” he said. “I didn’t like it as well as I liked 3D archery, so I switched over to 3D. I could have shot with the 11- and 12-year-olds, but I went straight to the 13-14 class because I knew the competition would be harder. I wanted to challenge myself.”
He had some success early on in local competitions, but struggled in larger events.
“I started off winning a couple of local shoots in my age class, but I wasn’t dominant at all,” he said. “After losing so many times, I got motivated to get better.”
He practiced — a lot.
“I usually shoot six days a week, at least 150 arrows a day,” he said. “Every week or so, I go to a 3D range to judge targets.”
Both disciplines pay dividends when Ferrell competes. The shooting builds muscle memory, and the target judging hones the critical skill of estimating distance.
Shooting in tournaments also taught him perhaps the most difficult skill of all — how to control his nerves in the heat of competition. “Now I stay pretty calm in competitions,” he said. “Most of the time I’m able to control my nerves.”
He showed improvement during his second year of competition, but still could hardly be considered a world-beater. This year, he dominated his age-class.
“I was a little surprised,” Ferrell said. “Having success on the national and world level was completely new to me.”
His run to the top began in February, when he won the IBO World Indoor title in Columbus, Ohio. After that, he captured the West Virginia State Indoor championship in Huntington and the IBO Winter Nationals in Mount Airy, North Carolina.
“I went on to win all three legs of the IBO West Virginia Triple Crown, which gave me first place overall in that competition,” he said.
He earned second-place honors in the first two legs of the National Triple Crown, and that gave him enough accumulated points to assure him of Shooter of the Year honors for the 13-14 age group.
So far this year, he has finished first or second in every IBO competition he’s entered. People noticed. Several archery-equipment manufacturers invited them to join their pro staffs.
Next year, which will be his sophomore year at Chapmanville Regional High School, the 15-year-old plans to take another giant step up in competition.
“Instead of shooting in the 15-17 age class, I’m going to go straight to the adult class, where there’s more prize money and better competition,” he said. “I’m also thinking about trying to shoot in Archery Shooters Association events.”
He said the COVID-19 pandemic has kept him from competing as much as he would have liked, but it also has freed him up to get closer to his ultimate goal — becoming a full-time professional tournament archer.
“Some people have used it to take a break,” he said. “I’ve used it to practice and get better, to create more distance between me and my competitors.”