Colorado Springs, CO - The tension on the field at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Archery was palpable today, as every archer brought their A-game to the field at the Grace Center for Athletics, each determined to achieve his or her Olympic dream. Pending approval by the U.S. Olympic Committee, three women and three men will be nominated to the U.S. Olympic Team on Sunday, and the pressure to realize that goal drove several athletes to new standards of excellence in competition under challenging conditions today. Despite beginning under clear skies with warm temperatures, weather conditions rapidly deteriorated in the afternoon, with archers fleeing the field of play to avoid a strong line of thunderstorms that produced hail and wind gusts in excess of 50 mph, making competition impossible for nearly two hours.
Kicking off the final and most heavily weighted of the three Nomination Shoots that comprise the Olympic Trials for archery, competitors shot a 72-arrow ranking round at the 70 meter Olympic distance this morning, vying for the sixteen total possible points at stake this morning.
On the women's side, Miranda Leek (Des Moines, IA), seemingly determined to keep the top women's spot locked down, shot a 329 for her first 36 arrows, followed closely by four-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig (West Hollywood, CA), hitting a 323. Texas A&M University student and two-time Olympian Jennifer Nichols (Cheyenne, WY) posted a 318 of her own, followed by Junior Dream Team graduate Mackenzie Brown (Tyler, TX), who shot a 313. USA Archery Resident Athletes Kristin Braun (Los Angeles, CA), Holly Stover (Brighton, MI) and Heather Koehl (Sheboygan Falls, WI) locked in 311, 310 and 309 for the first 36; US Archery Team member Lori Cieslinski (Howell, MI) posted a 303.
In the second 36 arrows, however, there was movement in the ranks, with archers determined to grab every possible point. Leek, Lorig and Nichols all finished on top, shooting 655, 649 and 646, respectively, but Koehl shot up from seventh to fourth, hitting a 632 for the back half. Brown dropped just one place to third with a 631, while Braun, Stover and Cieslinski rounded out the women's Shadow Team with 628, 618 and 607. With her top finish, Leek brought her total Trials points to 93.75, followed by 81 for Nichols, 80.5 for Lorig, 68.75 for Koehl, 57 for Braun, 44.5 for Brown, 42 for Cieslinski and 39 for Stover.
On the men's side of the field, Brady Ellison (Payson, AZ) - the world's number one ranked archer - also started in the top spot and never looked back, hitting a 340 for the first 36 arrows. He was joined in the top three by five-time Olympian Butch Johnson (Woodstock, CT) with a 335, and Resident Athletes Jacob Wukie (Oak Harbor, OH) and Joe Fanchin (Oceanside, CA) with 333 and 331, respectively. Jake Kaminski (Buffalo, NY) shot a 329 for his first half, followed by Olympic medalist Vic Wunderle (Mason City, OH) with the same score; Thomas Stanwood (Middleboro, MA) with 327, and Dan Schuller (PA) with 323.
Ellison remained atop the rankings with a 673 after the morning's ranking round. However, Johnson was unable to hold down the second spot going into his final two ends, opening the door for Kaminski, Fanchin and Wukie to push through to second, third and fourth with 668s. Stanwood hit a 662, while Johnson ended the round in sixth with 661. Wunderle and Schuller, each shooting a 651, finished in seventh and eighth. With bonus points added, Ellison topped the overall standings by fourteen points at midday with a 102, followed by Kaminski with 88, Wukie with 70, Fanchin with 67.25, Johnson with 56.25, Stanwood with 49.75, Schuller with 44.25, and Wunderle with 42.75.
The afternoon's elimination rounds - worth an additional 16 points, began with fairly calm weather conditions, but gusty winds and threatening clouds soon gave way to thunder and lightning halfway through the men's semifinal matches. The quarterfinals - considered the most important of the elimination matches since retiring athletes earn just 4 points while others have a significant chance to gain in the semis and finals - produced some upsets. The first match of the day - Johnson versus Fanchin - was a victory for Fanchin, who stopped Johnson at the quarters, 7-3. The second match of the day produced what could become the biggest upset of the Trials event, with Stanwood edging out Wukie, 6-3 - allowing for a major swing in the point spread. Kaminski won his quarterfinal match versus Schuller after a very close 6-5 shoot-off, while Ellison stopped Wunderle in a 6-0 shutout.
In the semifinals, Stanwood forced Kaminski's second shoot-off of the day, but was unable to overcome the Resident Athlete, who posted his second 6-5 win. Following a delay for severe thunderstorms and lightning on the field, shooting resumed with Ellison facing off against Fanchin for a spot in the gold medal match. Fanchin, hitting the gold time and again, overcame Ellison, who noted later that he wasn't happy with the way he shot. "I struggled a little bit today, hopefully I'll come back tomorrow," the 23 year old superstar noted. When asked if the weather conditions affected his scores, he commented: "I like shooting in conditions like this, the wind is a little bit heavier than what we would like, so that makes it tough, but this is what it's going to be like in London. My body's just not doing what I want it to." His goal for the final day of the Olympic Trials? "To win every match."
In the medal matches, Ellison had a tough fight for the bronze with Stanwood, who clearly came to play this weekend. Stanwood led the match after three sets, 4-2, but Ellison was able to mount a comeback, bringing the score to 4-4 and then winning, 6-4. In the gold medal match, Kaminski and Fanchin had a back-and-forth battle for the sixteen points at stake, eventually tying the match 4-4. Ultimately, it was Fanchin who claimed the gold medal, getting the points he needed to push into the top three of the overall standings. Following the matches, there was movement in the ranks, with Ellison ending the day still in first at 112, followed by Kaminski with 102, Fanchin with 83.25, Wukie with 74, Johnson with 60.25, Stanwood with 57.75, Schuller with 48.25, and Wunderle with 46.75. "Well took a silver sitting 27 points up on the 4th spot," Kaminski tweeted after the match. "37 points are to be had tomorrow at the #OlympicTrials super pumped."
For the women, the first matchup between Braun and Koehl proved to be a 7-3 victory for Koehl, while Brown had a back-and forth battle with Lorig in the quarterfinals. Lorig ultimately pushed through, advancing to the semifinals. In the matchup between Nichols and Cieslinski, Nichols took an early lead and was able to keep it, winning the match with a 6-0 shutout. The last quarterfinal match of the day took place between Leek and Stover, with Stover shooting well enough to match Leek set for set. Ultimately it was Stover who took the upset of the day, winning a 6-4 victory over Leek to advance to the semifinals.
In the semis, Lorig and Nichols faced off first in a battle of the Olympic veterans. Lorig opened with a 2-0 lead, and doubled it after the second set. With a 4-0 lead, and a tough shot for Nichols in the final set, Lorig clinched a shutout victory to take her spot in the gold medal match. Koehl and Stover met for their semifinal match, each determined to have their shot at the sixteen points at stake for a gold medal finish. Koehl, with a 29, opened with a 2-0 lead, and set her sights on the gold medal final, taking the match 6-0. In the bronze medal match, Nichols took the first set but gave the second up to Stover, who was able to tie it up, 2-2. Stover pushed through to a 4-2 lead, though Nichols came back to tie the match at 4-4 before Stover forced a tie breaking shoot-off, 5-5 - and took the bronze medal. In the gold medal final, it was Lorig versus Koehl, who had the largest point gain of the day for the women, opening with a 2-0 lead and increasing to 4-0 with ten after ten. Though Lorig rallied to tie the third set and win the fourth, it was Koehl who cruised to a 7-3 win to earn a 16 point gain.
Koehl commented on her win: "I'm pretty excited, I went out there and shot aggressive, didn't hold anything back and it paid off. After the second Trials I knew what I needed to work on and it showed in practice even days before, and i was getting better and better and i was very happy." When asked what advice she would give to younger archers on having a solid mental game under pressure, Koehl said: "you really want to have no regrets at the end of the day; you want to go out and say you shot your best - it's about the mental side of knowing you did your best." Following the eliminations, Leek held her position with a narrow 97.75 lead, followed by Lorig with 94.5, Nichols with 89, Koehl with 84.75, Braun with 61, Stover with 49, Brown with 48.5, and Cieslinski with 46.
The competition will continue - and conclude - with Round Robin matches all day on Sunday. Archers will earn ranking points (which are cumulative) for performances in each match as well as for their three-arrow average score during the Round Robin matches. For complete information, results, updated standings throughout the event and a preview, visit http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Archery/Events/2012/June/01/US-Olympic-Team-Trials-Third-Nomination-Shoot.aspx
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