For a whole host of reasons, I always seem to have a rough tournament at each year’s AZ Cup. This year was no different. Having made the decision to skip one of my favorite tournaments (Versus MX) this year due to the fact that I need to keep my job, AZ Cup was my first outdoor tournament of the season.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I choose to start shooting outdoors as soon as I got home from Indoor Worlds in Turkey. This was a blessing in disguise as the weather between Indoor Nationals in KY and AZ Cup was not ideal for shooting outside. We had snow, high winds and freezing cold temperatures. Unfortunately for me, I hadn’t spent much time tuning my setup between Turkey and KY, so I wasn’t feeling 100% about everything being dialed as I headed to AZ. I knew practice day would be important for this.
I headed to practice first thing when it opened, with a couple different sets of arrows (different lengths and spines), and I was prepared to get things dialed in early before it got too windy. My original setup wasn’t bad, but I just didn’t get the feeling that my groups were as small as I could get them. I tried the arrows I had, as well as some from a friend (Thanks Mike!). In the end, I decided to stick with the original set, but do some tuning with the rest, including decreasing the angle of my blade. This seemed to get my arrows flying better, and I was going to roll with it for the next day.
Qualification started pretty decent. I wasn’t shooting amazing, but I wasn’t shooting terrible either. It was pretty windy, which I was definitely not upset about. I finished up the first half with a 342, which was nothing to be excited about but it was above a 340 and my goal for the year was to shoot 340+ on every 36 round I shot.
The wind definitely started to die down in the second half, which I wasn’t too happy about. My first two ends after the half were my lowest two all day, but I tried to just stay focused on shooting good shots and not worry about the score. In the 9th end, I drew back on an arrow and suddenly my whole body froze. I wasn’t able to let down, I wasn’t able to shoot, I couldn’t do anything. Talk about scary!!! After standing there at full draw for what felt like an hour, somehow the shot finally went off (I’m guessing it was just due to muscle fatigue). The arrow landed right at the tip top of the bale in the wood…aka a miss.
I wasn’t as shaken up about the miss as I was the whole experience. I came off the line visibly shaking. I had multiple people ask if I was ok bc they could see how shaken up I was. The rest of the round was just me trying to get through it. I had to really tell myself it didn’t matter where the arrows landed. Score at this point meant nothing, I just was focused on talking myself through my shot sequence and shooting good quality shots. If the pin was in the 8 or 9 ring so be it, I was just focused on my form.
I ended up finishing up that half with a miserable 327…the worst score I had shot in over a year, but I had battled through and finished. Afterwards I learned I had been sitting around 3rd through most of the day until my miss. Instead I ended up finishing tied for 10/11th and the final spot on the women’s team for the next day. She beat me in 10 count which meant she won the tie breaker, and I wasn’t shooting any team rounds this year (mixed or women’s). I was a little bummed at first to have not earned a spot, but the more I thought about it, the more relieved I was. I knew I could just focus on myself and my own shooting to make sure I got the fear out of my system.
The way the bracket fell, I was the first person not to get a bye, which meant I would be facing the person who qualified in last place. Instead of this being a pretty easy match, I found out I was shooting against my friend Martha who had to miss the entire second half of qualification (meaning she was seeded way below her skill level). I decided not to think about it and just shoot my arrows. It was fairly windy and I squeaked out the win, but I knew I had made some mistakes. I was still not back to 100% in my shooting, as it was a struggle for me after yesterday, but I had one more match to win to make it to the final day.
I managed a one point better score in my second match, but I knew I had lost my shot and my confidence. I tried to just mentally run through my shot, but as soon as I picked up my bow that all disappeared. So after winning the match, I headed to the bales they set up for blank bale. I tried to retrain my brain and just focus on my form. It never felt any easier, so I eventually called it a day and headed back to the house we rented since I didn’t have to shoot team rounds that afternoon.
Sunday I knew I was going to have a tough first match. Cassidy was shooting very well, so I knew I needed my A game back. Practice went well but as soon as we started scoring I had a very low 8. I believed my sight was dialed in so I didn’t adjust and the next arrow just caught the 9 ring low. After she was 3 points up on me in the first end, I knew I had to regroup. I tried to just clear my head and focus. The third arrow of that next end, I suddenly got my shot back. Everything came together and I felt like myself again shooting. I finished the last three ends strong, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the points I’d already given her and I lost. Another AZ Cup, and another not making the top 8…
Instead of being upset, I was actually ecstatic because I knew I had conquered (at least for the time being) whatever had happened to me during qualification. That was a huge boost heading home to get ready for China and my month straight of archery travel.