Learning as I go

As many of you know, this past weekend I competed in the 2013 AAE Arizona Cup event. This event was not only the first of the National Team Qualifier events, but it was also a world ranking event. However, in order to receive world ranking points you needed to be in the top 32 finishers.
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I had personal goals set for this event, but ultimately my plan was to use this as a learning experience. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself to do well, since this was my very first outdoor tournament, first match play/elimination round, and obviously first time competing against individuals from other countries.

Thursday was official practice day, so we got there early to warmup, so R could get sight marks at all the distance before it got too crowded. There was definitely some wind, but it was pretty consistent, so it was easy to make the adjustments to compensate. I felt confident, as my shots were all going in yellow, and overall I felt good. It was hot, but the breeze gave us some relief, and we didn’t stick around for the full day.

The next day was qualification day. Basically, this is where everyone shoots a full score, and then you are ranked accordingly to be put in brackets (top 64 make the cut). For recurve shooters this meant 144 arrows (36 at each of 4 distances), while for compound shooters like myself this was 72 arrows all at 50M. Recurve shooters would shoot both morning and afternoon, while compound men shot morning and women shot afternoon.

Unfortunately for me, that meant I would have to shoot in the afternoon, after being at the field all morning. The good news was, however, that I would get to watch R shoot both his 90M and 70M distances, before I had to worry about my own shooting. I’m definitely the type of person that likes to “just get it over with” when talking about competing. I’d much rather get up at 3-4am to make it for an early starting race, then sit around all day waiting. I knew I could focus on him, though, and use that as a distraction to not think about my own competition.

The weather forecasters were dead on, as it was HOTTTTT all day on Friday. The sun was out, not a cloud in the sky, and while the morning was cooler (probably in the 70s), with just a light breeze, the afternoon proved to be brutal. After the short lunch break it was mid 90s and climbing, with the wind deciding it would follow suit.

After seeing the men compound have a relatively calm and decent temp morning, I was excited to shoot. However, I soon realized us women would not be granted the same conditions by mother nature. I had made sure to stay hydrated all day, and I felt like I drank enough (added nuun tabs to some of my water bottles to make sure I got enough electrolytes as well).

Unfortunately, staying hydrated wasn’t enough. As someone whose body does not handle the heat well, I quickly became pretty miserable. I shot my shots and then quickly went back under the tents behind the line, but I just did not feel well. Add to that the fact that the wind was gusty and changing directions, and needless to say I was not shooting as well as I would have liked.

In fact, my first arrow of the entire tournament, I thought I had a miss! Basically the scoring rings used for compound at 50M, just have a 5 ring and up so 4 targets can fit on one bale. Lucky for me, I just nicked the 5 ring, which was not a good score at all, but it was 5 points higher than the 0 I would have gotten for being where the 4 ring should have been. It ended up that my bad luck was not over, however, as about half way through there was a strong gust of wind right as my shot when off, carrying my arrow directly into guess what, yep the white (aka a miss).

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I definitely struggled between the heat and the wind, but I kept trying to remind myself that I was there to learn. The day definitely felt like it was dragging on, though, with a couple of people having mechanical failures, one severe “dust devil” that took out a couple of tents, as well as bale targets (breaking arrows), and some scoring malfunctions all causing a pause in competition.

I actually got to the point where I didn’t think we were ever going to finish. In fact, some people actually started questioning whether we would be done before sundown, as in AZ its like a light switch, either its bright or its dark, there really isn’t much of a dusk. I kept a positive attitude, however, and my second half was much better than my first, as I actually started to feel like I had gotten slightly better at figuring out the wind.

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The longest day ever finally came to a close, we were all hot, tired, and hungry, but all we wanted was our beds. Our scores were ranked, and I ended up seated 28 overall, definitely lower than I was hoping, but not far from some US women who have been on national or world cup teams, so I knew the conditions were tough. Saturday was team competition day, so since R and I were not part of any teams, that meant a day to relax and prepare for Sunday’s elimination rounds.

Sunday came and we were back at the field at 7am, with competition kicking off at 8am (just like Friday). The weather was perfect temp, and my first match up I knew was almost a gimme. I was going head-to-head against D’Arce Hess (who had shot 100 points less than me on qualification day, which was a HUGE amount). I took the advice from Butch, and saw this as an opportunity to gain confidence bc my second round match up, Linda Ochoa, was not so easy (5th ranked girl from Mexico!).

We were allowed a couple of practice ends before starting our match, and suddenly I got VERY nervous. D’Arce was actually a para-archer, who had just missed the olympics in recurve (she recently made the switch to shooting compound), and she was drilling shots. I was all over the place on my practice ends, yet she consistently was putting tight groups in the yellow.

practice end

practice end

I didn’t want to lose to this girl was all I kept thinking. I have to at least make it past this round. So we stepped up to the line to being shooting and my heart starting pounding a mile a minute. You know that feeling you get on the start line of any race, well I had that now, only adrenaline is not necessarily your friend when you are shooting a bow and need to hold still.

With my heart feeling like it was going to pound through my chest, I drew back and shot my first arrow. I looked down into my spotting scope and dang, I just shot an X (smallest ring, inside the 10 ring). I tried to stay calm for my second shot, but unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky this time and shot an 8. At this point I knew I had to focus and try to bury my nervousness. Somehow this worked, and I shot another X to finish with a 28 (X,X,8) for that end.

We walked down to score and that’s when I realized she had shot all yellow. She ended up with a 10,9,9 meaning we were tied at 28. Looking down the field, I noticed that only one person had scored higher than us, with a 29. I knew from this point on she was going to be a ringer. I would have to shoot very well in order to make it past her and continue on in the tournament.

She kept close with me for the next end or 2, and I continued to see there was no other lower seeded bracket anywhere near her scores. I then shot a 30, and knew that should give me a little cushion. The second to last end of this 5 end match, she called one of her arrows an 8, which I believe was a 7. I had a 2 or 3 point lead at this point, so I didn’t say anything.

I’m not the best at judging whether arrows are in or out and I didn’t want to offend her, so I just kept my mouth shut. As we were walking back to the line, I realized what a mistake that was. Whether it was a 7 or an 8, I needed to call a line judge over. As an archer, you alone have to be your advocate. If you don’t no one else will. I knew I should have said something, and I realized that she was easily still in the match if I let her. So with one end to go, I knew I had to leave no room for that arrow to make any difference. I stood on the line, felt like my whole body was shaking and proceeded to shoot a 30.

This clinched the win against my opponent, but I soon realized it gave me the highest score of anyone in that round…take a guess who had the second highest (she did!)…so much for an easy first round 🙂 At this point I was feeling great. I had confidence, had dealt with some minor wind without a problem, and I knew Linda (my 2nd round opponent from Mexico) was beatable after watching her in the first round.

I had to sit and wait at this point, as the men’s 1/32 round had to take place before everyone moved in to the 1/16 round to the gold medal matches at once. It ended up being about an hour I waited, but I did get to watch R square off against Jake Kaminski (an olympic silver medalist). Obviously, he did not win the match, but the fact that he made the cut to 64 was a major accomplishment.

Now was my chance, time to square off against Linda Ochoa and win. By this point the wind was beginning to act up again. Literally, it would change direction between arrows, making it very tough to judge for a newbie like me. I focused on making strong shots, and I didn’t feel nervous. My first end was a 27, and she instantly took a lead, with her 30. As we progressed through she held a commanding lead (in fact she had the highest score of any target), and I struggled.

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I found myself getting very frustrated as I would shoot a shot that I “knew” was a dead X, only to see it sail into the 7 or 8 ring. I tried to remember this was a learning experience, and while I got my butt kicked royally by her, I did have a higher X count. I decided to take that away with me, as the same thing had happened on friday in qualification (lowest score on bale, but highest X count). That told me I was doing SOMETHING right.

So the take away from all of this? I need to learn how to shoot in the wind. Clearly that is something that comes with practice overtime, as that was the one area you could definitely tell other’s experience level. I did manage to impress some people when they heard how short of a time I have been shooting, I placed high enough to get world ranking points, AND I got to spend a couple of days in Arizona with R. Seems like I’m doing pretty well!

*all photos in this post were taken by Teresa Iaconi, and are property of USA Archery

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Posted on April 11, 2013, in Archery, Racing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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