Nationals: Success at Last!
Another day, another post about my trip to Nationals. After a long drive out, a day of qualification and visiting Xavier, and a final day of qualification that didn’t start until after lunch, I was pretty ready to be done. I was tired after being out in the sun for 3 days and not doing particularly well. In addition, because eliminations weren’t even officially part of Nationals, I knew they didn’t really count towards anything.
Luckily, Saturday was an EARLY morning. I’ve always been the type of person who would much rather get up at 4am and compete at 6, then get to sleep in and have to wait around to compete until 2pm…hence one the reasons I didn’t like mountain bike racing as much, once R and I moved up categories. Anyways, when we got to the field, it was actually still dark out, as R and the recurve men were starting at 7am sharp. It was pretty cool because we actually got to see the sun rise up over the targets.
Because the women had less participants, we weren’t starting until the men got through their first matches. That put us around 8:15, and we were allowed two ends of practice before scoring began. My first match of the day was (luckily) against a lower seed. I was the 13 seed and she was something like the 20th seed. I’ve learned, however, that anything can happen, so I knew I needed to be focused for this match if I didn’t want to blow it. Unfortunately, the angle of the sun at this point was HORRIBLE. I literally could not see my target, as I was getting reflection off my bow, and we had the only white bail out on the field (everyone else had black), so the contrast wasn’t enough to see against the sun.
This meant my arrows were literally going everywhere. R kept asking what was wrong, and I kept saying “I can’t see my target.” Honestly it was a pretty scary feeling to be standing on the line, knowing you were basically taking a guess at where to aim. I knew we were both in the same situation, so I just had to focus on making strong shots. In the end, my score was not pretty, but I got the job done and easily clinched the win.
This meant I would now be in an all CT duel, facing Brittany Lorenti (who just happened to start out of the same range I shot for, Hall’s Arrow). A little background here, she hasn’t shot any of the qualifier events this year, but she’s been a top compound shooter for years. She has represented the US at World Cups (including this week in Columbia), Jr team events and even the University Games, so even though she hasn’t been competing in 2013, she was a VERY strong competitor and I knew it.
In fact, Brittany was the #4 seed going into eliminations, placing 3rd out of US participants during Nationals. I was extremely nervous going into this match, as my goal all year has been to make the top 8 and the only way I could do that was to get past Lorenti. I tried to stay calm as we started shooting, but I could feel my heart beating like crazy and I felt like my whole body was shaking. I opened with a 29 to her 27, so I was able to breathe for a second, but then I realized how quickly things could change if I didn’t keep on it. We stayed very close through the entire match, but I was happy with the way I was shooting. I was on pace to set a personal best for an elimination match (15 arrows), until I shot three 9s to finish up.
Luckily for me, she didn’t take advantage of my slip-up, so I won the match (and tied my PR)! I was SOOOOO excited at this point! After trying all season, I had finally made the top 8 at a national event! Unfortunately, I couldn’t think about this too long, as I had to jump right into my next match. I was now paired up against Easter Brock, who had just gotten an upset herself. I saw this as a both a good and bad thing for me…facing a lower seed is always better (though she was still higher than me), but just like me, she had the momentum of just getting an upset.
Wind was starting to get a little trickier, as it was gusting and changing directions some, but I tried to stay calm and just take my time making good shots. We battled back and forth throughout the match, with me managing to have a 1 or 2 point lead with one end to go. I knew if I could just shoot 3 good shots, I would win the match. I got up to the line and shot a 9, 8, 9…my heart sunk when I saw the 8, as I knew that was the match. I came off the line feeling defeated and again just disappointed bc I felt like I could have won.
Easter then came off the line and said, well that’s the match or something along the lines of her blowing it. I said, no, I’m pretty sure I just allowed you to win. She then told me she hadn’t managed to hit the gold (yellow…X, 10 or 9) on this last end. I couldn’t believe it, and I honestly thought she was joking with me until we made it down the field to score our arrows and I could see them first handed. That meant I had just won the match, and, more importantly, I had just made the finals!!!
To be honest, this hadn’t even registered ahead of time. I had been so focused on making the top 8, that I didn’t think about the fact that winning the next match would lead to the finals. Now I was guaranteed two more matches, as even if I lost my next match, I would head to the bronze medal match.
I looked to see who was left standing, and I realized I would be facing Erika Jones in my next match (she has won virtually everything this year, including a #1 world ranking). Diane and Jaime were the other two archers, so they would be shooting against each other, trying to win a spot in the gold medal match. At this point, I had 0 nerves. I knew my chance of beating Erika was slim to none (she had already shot a least one national record this weekend, missing the world record by 1 point), but I didn’t care. I was just so excited about making the top four, that I honestly didn’t care if I won or lost at this point (Lesson #1 for the future…Want the win!).
I started ok, but Erika was ON, drilling shot after shot, so I quickly fell behind. Then I started getting worse, hitting some 8s, not hitting 10s and it all went downhill from there, with me losing by a good 10 points I think. I expected to go up against Diane for bronze, since she had been down in the match, however, on the last end Jaime shot a 6 (WHAT?), which cost her the match, so I’d get to go against her for the second time this year.
At this point, I was starting to get worried for time (I had already asked for a late checkout in my hotel, but I had not anticipated making it this far), as I didn’t want to get charged for an extra day if I was late. As much as I’d love to win the bronze, I knew Jaime was another very tough competitor (she would not make a second mistake like that in one day) AND only the top three had to stay after we were done for awards, so again I had no pressure or nerves going into this match.
I did, however, want to at least shoot well and prove I deserved to be there. Unfortunately, I struggled even more in this match then I had in the last…literally I felt like I couldn’t hit the 10 ring to save my life. I’d shoot a shot that was 8 left, so I’d make a correction and it would end up being an 8, directly right this time. It was clear about half way through the match that I had lost (same thing occurred in the gold medal match, with Diane and I actually have the exact same score). I tried to just go out and have fun, but unfortunately that didn’t help me score either. Last end of the tournament I was fighting against some wind (think of someone pushing your arm left and you are using muscles to push right, so your arm actually stays straight/doesn’t move), when all of a sudden right as I was shooting the shot, the wind disappeared, causing my arm to fling right with a lot of force.
I knew it was not going to be a pretty result, and sure enough I had just shot a 6 (my first of the entire tournament!) in the bronze medal match. Whoops! I tried not to get too upset and focused on shooting a good last shot of the day, which I did…X! So in the end, I did not get to stand on the podium, get cash money (at least $500 for 3rd) or shoot well in my final matches, but I had not only reached my goal of making the top 8, but I had gone a step further and was the only non-pro to made the finals. Now I can’t wait until next year, when I’ll be standing on top of this podium!