I had a long break this year between Gator Cup and Outdoor Nationals, with not doing any international tournaments. I had roughly two months at home to get stronger more consistent with my form. After working hard, I found my scores were going the wrong way, and I got very frustrated. I did two local tournaments (one being the Nutmeg State Games), and while I won both I was really embarrassed by my scores. The really hard part was my shots were feeling way more consistent, I knew I was stronger, and I was putting in the time, yet my scores were getting significantly worse. I reached a low point in my recurve journey and really began questioning everything.
A few weeks before Nationals, after some prodding from a friend and Rich, I decided to try something totally different with my form. Overnight, I was shooting a million times better. Instead of missing the bale and not being able to group to save my life, I was suddenly shooting the best I had in months. I did have to take my weight back down, as I was using different muscles and needed to build back up my strength, but I was feeling really good going into Outdoor Nationals. At the beginning of the year, I set a goal for a top 10 finish at Outdoor Nationals, and I felt like that was in my reach if I could carry my new form with me into the tournament.
Day 1, I struggled with my timing. I was having a hard time getting the shot to go off as quickly as I was used to. I found that extra second or two really made a difference in my score. I knew this was something I needed to work on for the next day, but I was happy for a new outdoor tournament personal best, breaking 300 for both halves (307/303 for a 610). As I was packing up my bow, I noticed my clicker was just a little further back then I thought it was previously, so I knew if I made sure the next day it was a little more forward, I should be good to go and ready to climb up some spots (I was in 7th, but only 9 points out of 2nd).
Day 2 came and so did the wind. The men were in the morning, and I watched arrows fall of rests, guys missing the bail repeatedly, and some overall just very low scores. The wind was a very constant 15-20 mph, but the gusts were much stronger than that. I knew I needed to make sure I shot a quick shot and paid attention to the wind flag, but I was not prepared to handle wind that bad. Right from the beginning it was a fight for me. I found my front arm was getting blown around as I lifted it (before I could even begin drawing the bow). As I came in to anchor, I was rarely where I needed to aim on the target, sometimes even off the bale. I was lucky and every time my arrow did fall of the rest, I was able to catch it and reset the shot. The entire day was a complete struggle for me. I wasn’t afraid of the wind or missing, but my body felt like I was in a fight. I realized shooting in the wind with a recurve is much different than with a compound, especially shortly after making huge form changes.
By the half way point, my score was so miserable that I decided to forget my form for the rest of the day and just try to get arrows off as quickly as I could, whatever it took. This did seem to help, as I gained about 25 points in the second half. I even shot a 53 (9,9,9,10,10,5!) end and an X! Unfortunately my inexperience in the wind killed me, and I fell drastically in the rankings. Instead of improving on the previous day, I fell into 11th, just missing my goal of a top 10 finish. I wanted to be upset, but in reality I couldn’t. I knew I had never shot in conditions like that with a recurve (and maybe not even with a compound). I reminded myself of my first Texas Shootout and my 8 misses, and knew that I will build on this and be better next time. I will say, this was probably the first time in my career that I did not enjoy shooting. I always try to keep a positive attitude, and I’ve shot in rain, hail, wind, heat, etc but this was truly the first time I remember honestly wishing the round would just end.
The next morning was time for a new tournament. In the US, our elimination rounds are the US Open since Outdoor Nationals is ONLY qualification. I didn’t know what to expect, as I woke up tired and sore from shooting the previous day. My goal wasn’t to win matches, but simply to try to find my form again and score as high as possible. The last two USAT tournaments, I’ve been really far down in the rankings in arrow average during elimination rounds. My goal was to improve on that. My first match I got to shoot against my good friend, Kaela. We both shot some decent ends, but I was able to move on 6-0, something I haven’t done yet. My second match, I built on my first, shooting a little better and again won 6-0. I then went into my 3rd match against the #3 seed, Erin. We had shot together on day 1, so I knew I could hang with her if I was able to make good shots. My first two ends were rough, posting a 22 and a 19. I was frustrated because suddenly my arrows weren’t going where I expected (like they had in the first two matches). I had a friend say she noticed I was slightly canting the bow on some of the shots (probably due to the wind the day before), so I really tried to focus on not canting in the 3rd end. I wanted to shoot clean shots, and I did pretty well winning the set. I was now down 4-2. I shot a solid 27 last end, but Erin shot a 29, taking the win.
Overall, I was happy with how I had shot throughout my matches, but I really would have liked to get the first two ends of my last match back. Not because I wanted a chance to win the match (though obviously I did), but more so because I knew that would kill my arrow average for the day. In the end, I had a great time with friends, and I feel good knowing I’ve made huge improvements since AZ Cup and Gator Cup, but I was reminded I still have a long way to go. I’ve got some areas I plan to work on over the next 2.5 weeks, so I can be more prepared at SoCal and hopefully keep improving.