Last weekend was my final tournament for the year, but for me it was also the most important. Last winter when I set goals for the year, my #1 goal was to make the Indoor World Championship team. At the time, we had all heard this would be the last one. Also, it was a World Championship on home soil. Add to this the fact that I wanted to be able to say I made Indoor World Championships with both a compound and a recurve, and it had to be my primary goal for 2017.
I can shoot outdoors at my house, but indoors is a bit of a problem. I can blank bale and shoot tiny targets up close, but I can only really get to a range about once a week (its an hour drive each way, which leaves me less time to shoot when I do go). I was fortunate to spend some time in CA in November, so I got to shoot 18m at a target every single day. Going into these trials I knew the toughest part was going to be the amount of scoring arrows. I remember from both of my indoor world trials with the compound how LONG qualification of 120 arrows is. With compound it was really just a matter of staying in it mentally, but I knew with recurve strength would also be an issue. For this reason I decided not to go with my higher poundage limbs this indoor season AND I increased my arrow count this fall. I’ve always felt you should be able to comfortably shoot double the amount of arrows that you will be shooting in a tournament, which means shooting 2.5 to 3x that number most days of practice.
I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was just a little disappointed when I saw we had a record number of 20 women sign up to shoot the trials event. I have always wanted to win shooting against the best, but because this was such a big goal for me, I was hoping it would be a LITTLE easier than finishing top 3 out of 20, with 3 past Olympians/World Champions in the mix. I’d put up some big improvements (score wise) in the weeks leading up to the trials in practice, so all I could hope for was to shoot at that same level in the trials.
Practice day went a little too well for me. I have always found when I don’t shoot great in practice, I tend to do really well in the tournament. Instead of struggling, I actually had great shot timing and shot a new practice pb. Recurve women had to qualify on the afternoon/evening line, which I wasn’t looking forward to since I’m such a morning person. I tried to relax Saturday morning and get some work done to try to distract me. In reality I kept hitting refresh on my computer to check the morning line scores.
I started qualification a little slow. I felt like I was trying to get warmed up and shots were taking a little longer than ideal. I knew it was a long day ahead and endurance would be the name of the game, so I wasn’t too worried about shooting just a 282. During the second 300 round, I started to get a little shaky from waiting too long to eat (I’m hypoglycemic so yes I can pass out if I don’t eat on a regular schedule). This was my own fault, as I had miscalculated on when to eat, and my shooting suffered because of it. I not only had a pretty miserable score in this second round, but I wasted a lot of unnecessary energy fighting myself. Lesson learned…eat sooner than I think I need to! We got a 10 minute break at the half, and I happened to see that I was pretty low in the rankings (maybe 6th). I gave myself a pep talk and even told the other girls as I was coming back to our area after that break that I was done fooling around, time to get serious and shoot.
And that is exactly what I did. This third 300 round felt effortless minus a few shots. My timing had improved drastically from the first half, and I was able to execute shots as I wanted. As we added scores up, I realized I had shot my first ever 290! Yeah for a new personal best! Unfortunately, I simply ran out of steam in the final 300 round. All the energy I had wasted in the first half caught up to me, and I was just simply tired. I had to take a short rest before shooting my 3rd arrow, and a couple times I got down to very little time on the clock (something I haven’t had to worry about in a long time). I was simply tired, both physically and mentally at this point. After 6hrs of shooting we finally finished, and I was sitting in 4th. I left feeling pretty down on myself. I knew I needed to be top 3 to make the team, and I knew the next day had a lot of points up for grabs, but in my head I needed to be top 3 after the first day to have a shot against such a strong field. I tried to focus on the positive of a PB and get some rest for another roughly 100 arrows of scoring the next day.
Heading into the venue on Sunday, sitting in 4th, I knew I couldn’t shoot just average. I had to really shoot well if I was going to make this team. I also noticed that many of the women had dropped off in scores during the second half, so I was hoping to face them in the later part of the round robins, as I knew my chances of winning the match would be greater. Unfortunately the schedule was not in my favor. My first match was against the girl who probably started the strongest compared to her average on day 1. I knew I could beat her, I just needed to shoot my shot. With just the two ends of practice, my sight wasn’t dialed 100% when we started scoring. I shot three 9s in EXACTLY the same hole, just out low and left. I adjusted for next end, but I still shot a 28. She started on fire and was up 4-0. I ended up getting her to 5-3, but then lost 6-4. My slow start (and her great start) just wasn’t enough for me to overcome. I was disappointed but knew I was shooting good scores and my goal was to have a good arrow average.
Next up I shot against the #3 seed. I knew she was my biggest threat to making the team, so I needed this win (esp with losing my first match). I came out swinging and easily won 6-0. Now I knew I just needed to win the matches I “should” win and keep a solid arrow average, and I would have shot at the 3rd spot. Next, I faced the #8 seed and won by cumulative score but lost the match in set system. At this point I felt defeated. I felt like that one point was going to cost me making the team, and I was really down. The rest of the matches played out as they “should”. Overall, I was shooting well. I didn’t shoot amazing but had consistent good ends and although I lost to both Mackenzie and Khatuna (#1 and #2 seeds), I took them both to a full 5 ends, giving them run for their money.
I don’t normally check scores while I am shooting, but somewhere in the last few matches I pulled things up just to confirm I was out of it. Looking at things, I was correct, I was going to finish in 4th (or lower) and I was pretty upset. Long story short there was a protest, and recurve women ended up having to wait to shoot our last match while everyone else finished up. The judges said it would be a while, so I went to watch my compound friends as I knew their rankings was coming down to their final match. I told them I was done and would be alternate and last match didn’t matter for me. As we were getting called back in (all other divisions were now done) a friend made the comment to me to go win my match. In a bummed voice I said I would but it didn’t matter, I was 4th. He said do you want to know? I said yes and he showed me Khatuna and I were tied for 3rd. That meant if she lost her match (against Mackenzie) and I won mine, I would get 3rd.
I went into my last match full of renewed fire. I knew I could win this match if I just shot my shot. I went up 4-0 to start. I tend with set system to forget your opponent still can easily win the match at this point if you don’t keep pushing, so I tried to focus on finishing the match in the next end. Unfortunately I had two liners that were out so 4-2. I buckled down and finished 6-2. Meanwhile, I looked over and saw Mackenzie had won her match, so I started to get excited thinking I had made the team. As I pulled up results, it now showed Khatuna and I tied after the final match. I am thinking, What? Now I have to have a shootoff match??? Against Khatuna who I already lost to? But then it gets worse, results are then updated again, and they show I am actually in 4th place. I go back to feeling crushed. I try to tell myself that I just wasn’t at their level yet, and I have to accept that. I gave it my best shot but it wasn’t good enough, but after the back and forth I truly am heart broken.
I go to start taking my bow apart when I find out there were some errors and not everything was done correctly. I sit and wait while they re-run numbers. There is a very slim chance we are in fact tied. So we wait around some more. Turns out we ARE tied and do have to shoot a match against each other for the final spot. At this point my heart starts racing, and I have million thoughts running through my head. They give us one end of practice, and I am just focused on deep breaths, strong and aggressive shots, and just trying to relax. I’m shaking some as I shoot these three arrows, but I’m taking time between arrows to collect myself. We both shoot a perfect 30, and now its time for scoring. I’ve honestly never been so nervous in my life. Yes, never in my entire archery career, even in final’s matches did I feel this nervous and shake this bad! In fact, I am physically shaking (or at least it feels like I am) before even drawing my bow. No matter what I do I can’t hold the bow even on the target. I felt like not only were my arms shaking like a kid with a soda can, but my entire body was wobbling around. I could hear my heart beating in my chest and ears. My timing gets sllllooooowwww as my brain does not want to pull through clicker to release arrow when the pin is off the bale!
So let me stop right here for a second. I have a whole new respect for my archery friends that have struggled with nerves over the years. I always “got it” on a very superficial level, as I truly could never relate to many of the things they talked about. Am I saying I never got nervous, no, but once I stepped on the line, my head has always cleared and I am dialed in to the job at hand. I’ve never felt like my nerves were holding me back or making it so I couldn’t execute my shot. I’ve also been asked many times about how I handle nerves and other similar questions at seminars or camps I speak at. I’ve always hated answering this question bc I had never felt like I had to develop a way to overcome nerves, it was just something I did. After this experience, I feel like I can be a better coach, speaker, etc, but it also gives me some homework to figure out the best strategy for not allowing this to cripple me again in the future.
So back to the tie breaker match, I somehow put my first two arrows for score in the yellow, but when I shoot my 3rd I know its going to be a left 7/8. The crowd claps and cheers, saying its good, so I’m not sure what is going on (did Khatuna have a bad arrow too?). As we walk down I see my last arrow is actually a 9 and one of my first two is a 10, so I go up 2-0 winning the first set. Walking back, I just tried to take deep breaths, clear my head, and think about my shot (focus on setting front shoulder so I could pull through quickly). I’m just as nervous this end but again somehow win so I am now up 4-0. At this point I get even more nervous (I didn’t think that was possible). I know she is a very strong shooter, and I know I can’t give her any breathing room if want to make this team. No matter how hard I tried to follow my process of setting up my shot, these arrows were impossible to shoot. I was literally running out of breath bc I was holding so long, and I was just praying they hit paper. Unlike the previous two ends there were no loud cheers when I hit a 10, and based on what I could see with the naked eye, I knew I had 3 nines. So I was already trying to regroup to get ready for next end as she finished shooting her last two arrows. Once she was done, people start clapping…why are they clapping, I think? Must be because she won that end and is back in the match. We start walking to target, and that’s when I see my arrows. I had shot three 10s for a perfect 30. I had just won!
Even after taking time to fill score cards, congratulate each other, pull arrows, etc my heart was still pounding in my chest. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath and get my heart rate down to a normal level. By the time we got back to crowd my face was bright red from the lack of oxygen! I will say, I think SPTs are what saved my life in this situation. As much as I struggled, 10-12 seconds is still easier then 20-30 seconds that I hold daily during SPTS. Doing those exercises every morning gave me the strength to not only make it through the long day of scoring the day before, but to be able to win that tie breaker match as shaky as I was. Also, as excited as I was to make the team, it is hard for me to see such a strong shooter not make it. I’ve said multiple times that I would love to shoot on a team with Khatuna, and I was hoping this would be my chance. I will say, though, that I am pumped about the three of us representing team USA in Yankton this February. Mackenzie and Tatyana have a long resume of accomplishments including Olympics and wins at World Championships, so I’m looking forward to being teammates with them!
*Special thanks to Amy Skelton for all the great pictures during the trials!