Ahhh Vegas…the tournament many of us love to hate. The atmosphere at this tournament is unlike any other. There are literally thousands of archers competing, and most bring family and friends along with them. Add in all the sponsors and vendors, and you have an archer’s dream; archery everywhere you look! However, at least 75% of people know after the first day that they can no longer win the tournament, after months of preparation.
To be completely honest, I went in with pretty low expectations. I had been shooting 297s and 298s in practice, which is nowhere near what it takes to win in Vegas. Based on this I decided my goal for the tournament was 298 or better every day. If I could do that, I would walk away feeling happy, regardless of where that placed me.
When I arrived in Vegas, I was shocked and honored to be openly welcomed by all Hoyt employees. Whether I was in the practice range or walking through the hallway, they made it a point to find me and thank me for shooting their bow. In addition, I was presented with a large reusable grocery bag full of fruits and snacks for the weekend. Talk about making someone feel pretty awesome!
Day 1 I had a slow start, dropping two early on. Me and my balemate, Dee Starnes, were unlucky and had a HUGE hole where our left foot would go on the line and a large hill where our right food would go. This left us with a pretty awkward stance that I struggled with. Luckily, multi-time field Champion, Jamie Van Natta, gave us the pro tip of putting something like our bow stand under our front foot to help level us out a little. This helped, and I ended up dropping only one more that day for a total of 297. Normally I would have been pretty upset and disappointed, but I wasn’t. I knew I had made good shots overall, there were just a couple unexplained that got away, and I wasn’t going to let myself get down about them. My goal was just to do better the next day.
Friday night was the annual World Archery Awards Gala. Because I was up for female compound athlete of the year, I was invited! Only one person managed to snap a picture of me in a dress, so lucky for me there is minimal evidence 😉 I had a great group of athletes to sit with, and we had a great time laughing and eating dinner together. In the end, I did not win athlete of the year, but that’s a good thing. Sara Lopez was obviously the most deserving, so it was great to see her get the most votes!
Day 2 did go slightly better. I ended up wearing a cowboy boot with a heel on my left foot and a very flat tennis shoe on my right foot for even footing. This made a world of a difference, but I was mad at myself for a stupid mental mistake on one arrow. The bow was sitting perfectly, with my dot not moving around much at all. It was just too easy for me not to shoot the shot. What I haven’t told you is that it was holding perfectly outside the middle! I should have let this shot down, and I knew I should but I didn’t. So with a 298 I had improved, but I was more perturbed with my mental lapse.
I was looking forward to day 3, even though I knew I was definitely out of the running at this point. Day 3 everyone gets re-ranked, and we are given new bale assignments. This meant I would finally be off dreaded bale #156…or not. As luck would have it, I ended up on the SAME exact bale as the previous two days. I made it until around the 4th end before I dropped a point. It was just a dumb one, and I let it go. At the half all competitors must switch from top to bottom or vice versa. I decided to hang a brand new target face since mine was looking pretty ugly.
My first scoring arrow after the half felt good. I looked down and it had a funny kick to it. I ignored it and just kept shooting. When we walked down to the target it became obvious what had happened. My arrow had hit the target just slightly out of the X ring, but because of a hole in the bale, my arrow then ripped all the way out of the 10 ring. Had this not been the first arrow shot on a fresh target we could have only speculated that this happened, but being a clean target face, we could see the huge rip in the paper.
I’m not going to lie that I was pretty crushed after this. I shoot a 10, but I have to score it as a 9? Yep, that’s the rules, and it sucks. To keep from getting too worked up over it, I had to tell myself at least I wasn’t in the running to win when this happened. Then I thought about the men. What if I was in the men’s division, needing a perfect 900, and this happened? Yeah, it may be bad luck, but I choose to accept it and be thankful it wasn’t someone where that point really mattered. I was able to finish out the round without dropping anymore points for another 298.
This was by far my worst finish in my 3 years in Vegas, but I was ok with that. Instead of worrying about my placing/score, I used this tournament as an opportunity to further learn my new bow and get tips/tricks from as many people as possible. I talked to foreign shooters with similar draw lengths as me that I don’t see on a regular basis. I talked with engineers at Hoyt who have designed these bows from the ground up. This year Vegas was a learning opportunity, and I would head home with a bag full of knowledge.
In the end, I got to see my good friend, Inge, from the Netherlands win the women’s division, and I saw the first ever Lucky Dog winner as well. Overall, not too bad for the 50th year of the tournament.