It’s hard to believe my first outdoor season with a recurve is now over. There were definitely some ups and downs, but I can honestly say a year ago I wouldn’t have imagined I’d be where I am today. One year ago I was finishing up World Cup Finals and heading to World Field Championships. I had made my decision to switch, and was starting to hear people’s opinions on it.
After a year away from Texas, the USAT series returned this year to College Station. Flying in to Houston, we were able to see a lot of the areas destroyed by the flooding. This was R’s first time to Texas, so we made sure to stop for some Rudy’s bbq on our way to the hotel. I came into to this tournament not really knowing what to expect with my shooting. I had felt really good leading into Nationals, wasn’t feeling 100% going to SoCal, and my practices going into Texas were a real mixed bag. I’d have days where I was shooting the best I have all season and others where I couldn’t even hit 300.
Looking at the rankings leading in to Texas, I knew I couldn’t make the team, even if I won in Texas, so I decided to not worry about my score or my result. I was just going to use it as another opportunity to learn, and a chance to see all my archery friends one last time before the long fall break.
Practice day was a bit of a mixed bag, just like it had been at home. I had some not so great ends and some good ones. Along with the person next to me, my last end of the day, we held yellow. It was pretty cool as we each shot one arrow at a time and started joking about not wanting to be the first to “ruin” our pretty target.
Recurve women got to shoot in the morning, so we started the day with virtually no wind. I opened with a 48, shooting 8s all around the target, not finding the middle. The next end was a little better with a 51. I knew I was capable of shooting better, but I didn’t panic, telling myself it was a long day and reminding myself that it wasn’t about my score (I had already hit my season goal at Nationals).
As the half came to a close, I felt myself getting more and more comfortable on the line. My timing (something I had really been working on) was really coming together, and my scores reflected that. I went into the half with a 55 end to finish with a 312 for the first 36. That was a new pb for me, so I was pretty excited. What I found interesting once I looked at the half as a whole was the fact that I had the least amount of 10s I had all season, but I didn’t have the bad shots either (only three 7s and nothing worse). Unfortunately, for some reason this tournament (first one all year they had us do this) decided to take a break at the half. We all sat around, and when we went back to the line I just felt like I had to find my rhythm again. I opened with a 49, but I wasn’t bothered by this knowing that was 1 point better than I opened the first half.
As we worked our way through the round, the wind was just enough to be annoying. It wasn’t very strong, but it was enough to blow recurve arrows (esp at my poundage!), and because it wasn’t very strong it kept shifting. I would think I was aiming in the right spot, but I would shoot and find I had an 8. I’m not afraid of the wind, so I didn’t panic and adjusted where I aimed on the next arrow. I can’t tell you how many times that would be an 8 in the other direction. I felt like the entire second half I was chasing my tail, never finding the way up. I didn’t break a 50 until the last end of the day, which gave me a pretty upsetting 290 in the second half.
I learned after that I had been in 3rd at the half, and I fell all the way to 9th by the time we were done. I wanted to be upset, but I really tried to focus on the positives and remind myself how much longer all these other girls had been shooting. I knew the fact that I was able to hang with them while it was calm, gave me a lot of hope for the future. One thing I’ve learned this year is shooting in any amount of wind with a recurve is SOOOOOO much different than with a compound. It’s really like I am starting over and have to relearn everything.
The next morning we started elimination rounds, and I was excited to see my Aunt Anita (well my mom’s aunt actually) had driven up from Houston to come watch me. It was her first archery tournament, and looking back it seems like she brought me some good luck. The first round of the day I had a bye. The wind was calm, and I was shooting well. We then had to wait while the field was reset and then have another round of practice as there were new divisions entering the field the next round.
I shot against a fellow New Englander in the next round. We had fun, and I was able to win the match 6-0. Another thing I never really thought much about as a compound archer is the breaks with set system. Everyone obviously wants to win 6-0, but when you do that, it means you have to sit and wait for at least 2 ends while everyone else is finishing their matches. It’s definitely something I need to work on, coming up and shooting after sitting for extended periods of time.
The next match I was against the #6 seed (she was the top qualifying junior). Essentially this is the round I have lost in all year, so I REALLY wanted to make it past her and into the top 8. I got behind, but I was able to come back and tie it up 5-5. I was super excited to finally get to shoot a shootoff with my recurve (something I’ve been hoping for all season). I’ve always loved shootoffs, but I really didn’t know what to expect with a recurve in my hand. I tried to follow my usual routine. I came to the line, I nocked my arrow, I drew back and I didn’t try to be perfect, I just let the shot go when the clicker went off.
The shot felt good, but so had others that day, which ended up in various rings thanks to the wind, so I was a little nervous to look in the scope to see where it had landed. I heard some clapping, so I quickly looked in and saw I had shot an X! I can honestly say that was the highlight of my year. Being able to say I shot an X in my first ever recurve shootoff was an amazing feeling. Plus, I realized that meant I was moving on. I knew if I could win the next match that meant I would get two more matches (one being a medal match), so I was excited to shoot my next match.
I opened up the match on fire, shooting an X, 10, 9. I’m pretty sure I was still so pumped up from my shootoff, that I shot crazy good the first end. Unfortunately, I quickly lost the adrenaline and started shooting poorly. I was up 5-3 and knew I just needed to close the match out there if I wanted to shoot in the finals. Unfortunately, I lost 10 points in my first two arrows, so even though my last one was a 10 it was too little too late. We were now tied 5-5, so I had to shoot ANOTHER shootoff. Yes, I had wanted one, but I really didn’t want to shoot another one right away.
I was definitely feeling a little nervous on this one, just because I knew what was at stake. I tried to again follow the same steps and just shoot a quick shot without trying to hard. I ended up shooting a 9.8, just a little below the 10 ring, but she shot a 6 so it didn’t matter. I was moving on to the final 4!
It was around this point that I was reminded of my first year shooting a compound. My goal all season had been to make the top 8. 1)because I wanted to make USAT and 2)because top 8 got their own target on their own bale which I thought was cool. That year (2013), Nationals was the last outdoor tournament of the year. I always seemed to get eliminated in the 1/8th round, meaning I never made top 8, so I knew it was my final chance. I ended up winning in that round to make the quarter finals, and then I won again making top 4. At this point I then lost my next two matches to Erika and then Jamie (I believe) the top two seeds. Even though I was the double loser having finished 4th, I still remember how amazing that first top 4 finish felt. For those who have followed my career, you’ll know that just a few months later I went to Morocco and won the first World Cup I attended.
My semi final match was against Aida Roman. For those not familiar with archery superstars, she is a Mexican archer who won the silver medal in the London Olympics. Having known her for a few years, I know she is a fierce competitor, super strong, and she trains more than most archers I know. My goal wasn’t to win the match, my goal was simply to take a set from her. I knew that alone would be tough enough. Unfortunately, she opened 29, 29, and I wasn’t able to get any footing. I quickly lost 6-0. I didn’t have time to dwell or be upset with how poorly I scored, because I knew I had a bronze medal match immediately after.
In this match I shot against LaNola, who is a good friend, and a strong competitor. She has won 2 USATs this year and already taken me out at one. I knew I would need to shoot well to have a chance, so I tried to focus on just executing good shots. At this point, I ended up with the same problem I had had the day before. My shots felt much better than how I was scoring, and I knew I wasn’t reading the wind well enough. I was able to win one set, losing 6-2. I was happy not to get shutout, but I was disappointed in my scores the last two matches. I knew ultimatley my ranking didn’t matter, but I was disappointed knowing that even though I finished 4th, my arrow average was going to be abysmal.
After all was said and done and I had some time to reflect, it was pretty crazy to think about the similarities with my last outdoor tournament of my first compound year. I now wish I was heading to Morocco in November 😉 Yes, there are lots of things I would like to change about how things went in Texas, and the year as a whole, but I’m trying to remember patience and really put things into perspective. It’s been less than 10 months since I first picked up a recurve, and I am already doing some things well. Do I have a lot to still work on? Definitely, but I learned a lot this season. I plan to take a short break away from my bow, but then I will spend the fall increasing my draw weight, time in the gym, and overall fitness. I want to be 100% ready come next outdoor season to be competitive with the top women in the US.
Photo Credit: USA Archery