This past week was the annual AZ Cup, which serves as both a USAT qualifier event AND a world ranking event. I was excited for the opportunity to start the year off right, and hopefully improve my world ranking in the process.
R and I headed out a few days early, so we could get plenty of good practice in…yes, it snowed at home on Easter while we were in sunny AZ! My practice was going well, and I was feeling confident going into Wednesday’s qualification round.
Now a little background before continuing. Last year I always just changed nocks when I broke them, however, it seemed all the top archers were changing all their nocks at each tournament. This year I decided to “smartly” follow their lead. I purposely saved the nocks I wanted to use in competition and did not use them in practice. Because I had a couple packs of each color, I used the translucent orange nocks in practice, saving the solid orange for competition. The night before qualification, I sat in my hotel room and made sure to switch them all out.
The compound women got to shoot in the morning, so the wind was pretty calm. We started scoring and from the get go something didn’t seem right. My good shots were not landing well, and when I made a bad shot, many times I got lucky and it was an X! I started walking through all my equipment and couldn’t figure out what was going on. I was getting a diagonal line instead of groups, so it seemed like my bow was untuned, even though everything was still spot on from practice day.
By the end of qualification, my confidence was in the garbage. I figured since there was nothing wrong with my equipment, it had to be me. This meant, I wasn’t able to know my own shooting anymore, which was scary. Because I was the top female qualifier from our US World Cup team, that meant I’d be shooting mixed team that afternoon. I knew I had to get things figured out before then, as I didn’t want to let my teammate down and risk the US losing its #1 ranking again!
I headed to the practice range after lunch, and R and I tried to talk through everything and discover what was going on. He knows my shot well enough that he could tell (at least in practice range) that everything looked good, yet I still wasn’t grouping like I had previously. All of a sudden, he asked me, which nocks I had been shooting in practice. I told him, and he proceeded to tell me that the solid colored beiter nocks were a different material then the translucent colors. This was something I had NO idea about, nor would I have ever thought of on my own. He asked if I had the “practice” nocks on me, which I did, so we immediately switched the nocks back over.
Amazingly, my bow started to act like it was tuned again, and I actually knew where my arrows were going to hit. I shot how I expected to shoot during the mixed team round with Reo, and I couldn’t have been happier (even if we hadn’t won our matches).
The next day I was shooting the national women’s team and the gold medal match for mixed team. The women’s team was a new experience for me, coming in as the “veteran” after only ever having shot it twice before (once outdoor). Both Easter and Angela had never shot it, so I told them we needed to just go out there and have fun and use it as a learning experience for the World Cups.
We won our first match against Canada, which then put us up against Mexico in the Gold medal match. We ended up losing, but I was proud of the team and how well we worked together. In fact, we experienced a yellow card, and it didn’t even cause any problems…everyone stayed calm and just did what they needed to do.
Mixed team gold with Reo was up next, and I just focused on shooting my shot and getting on/off the line as quickly as possible to give him as much time as I could. We shot against the French and were lucky enough to take the lead in the first end and never look back, earning us a gold medal AND guaranteeing the US mixed team held on to its #1 world ranking!
Without more women in the field, I ended up with a bye on Friday, so I just watched R’s match and then hit the practice range. I knew Saturday was the day that really mattered, so I was anxious to make up for my poor qualification during the head-to-head eliminations. My first match was against Easter. How we always end up facing each other, I have no idea! I started strong, opening with a 30 and had only dropped 3 points after 4 ends. I’m not 100% sure what happened in the last end, but I think I must have lost some concentration bc I ended up shooting three 9s! Lucky for me, this was still enough for me to not only advance, but have one of the highest scores on the field with a 144.
Next up, I was facing Paige. She is an archer I definitely respect for her abilities to shoot. She did not shoot any FITA last year, as she decided to give 3d a go, but I knew she would be a tough opponent, and I would need to shoot well to move on. The match opened with her 30 to my 29. I didn’t panic knowing there were still 4 more ends. She then shot a 28 to my 30, so the tables were turned and I was now up by one point. Next end we both shot 29s, then she shot a 30 to my 29, tieing everything up going into the 5th and final end.
In my mind I knew I needed a 30 to guarantee at least a shoot off. However, my first shot broke a little high and was a solid 9. I calmed myself down, knowing there was a good chance she would shoot a 29, so if I could just shoot two 10s, that would give us a tie and we would have a shoot off. I hit them both and came off the line. I could only stand there and wait and when she shot her 3rd arrow, I heard her mom cheer, and I instantly knew she had shot a 30.
I was pretty bummed knowing I had shot a 145 and lost. I love shooting in matches like that, where you get to battle back and forth with someone, however, I prefer it to be later in the day then the 1/8th round. I’m not going to lie, it sucks when you lose with one of the highest scores on the field, and you see people 6-7 points less than you advancing. I was happy with how I shot, I was happy with our match, but I wasn’t happy with the outcome of me ending the tournament in 9th place. The only good thing I could focus on was the fact that I ended up with the highest arrow average for the day.
In the end, I know my poor qualification is what hurt me. That put me further down in the bracket and the reason Paige and I had to face off so early in the day. And while this was an important tournament and my results will hurt my ranking, I am sooo happy I learned the lessons I did now instead of later in the season or at even bigger events. Next stop is Gator Cup, which for us compound shooters means the 2nd USAT qualifier AND the 1st leg of our World Champs trials, so I am hoping I can build on this tournament and come out stronger in Florida.
*Thanks BowJunky & USA Archery for the pics!