As a coach, I always tell my students not to change anything before a major tournament (especially not their equipment). So what did I decide to do days before leaving for Outdoor Nationals in Decatur, AL? Change bows. After shooting with spiral cams since making the switch to Hoyt, I realized I wasn’t getting the holding weight I found comfortable for me previously. In fact, it was 3 pounds lower, which was causing me some issues in certain conditions. After setting up a bow with GTX cams for one of my students (who happens to have a draw length very similar to mine), I found the holding weight on that bow was EXACTLY the holding weight of my bows the previous two years. I decided to throw caution to the wind and shoot the bow with GTX cams (and higher holding weight) at Nationals. Luckily, I had a nice day to test arrows, so I knew which spine would work best with the new bow.
Anyone who knows me, knows my body is very sensitive to high temperatures and humidity…exactly what Alabama is known for. For this reason, I wanted to be at the practice range right when it opened, shoot some arrows and call it a day. I didn’t want to cause any extra stress to my body then needed, as I would rather be fresher for the actual tournament. I ended up shooting around 40 arrows, then I headed back to the hotel and air conditioning. That evening was the welcome reception, where I was once again asked to sign autograph cards. I always enjoy this, as I find it a great opportunity to interact with shooters, I may never come into contact with otherwise. Thanks for all of you that stopped by!
Nationals is a two-day qualification tournament for adults. We shoot a full 720 round each day, with the men and women alternating morning and afternoon lines. Day 1 had the men up first, with the women starting at 1pm. The men had a hot morning with full sun and high temps, but they were able to get their full round of arrows in. We started on time, but after only 1.5 practice ends, we were told to clear the field because their was lightning in the area. The storms continued all afternoon, and we ended up with over 4 hrs of 30 min delays. We didn’t pick back up on our practice ends until after 5pm. We got 2 ends and went right into scoring. I had a pretty strong start, only dropping 4 through the first 5 ends. Then in the 6th, I struggled to find the middle, shooting a 57 with 3 on each side of the 10 ring. That left me with a 353, a tie for my highest 36 round ever.
We didn’t take a break at the half, hoping to get the full round in (it was quickly getting dark). In the 8th end (sometime after 8pm) the C/D line was up, and as they were coming off the line, we saw a huge crack of lightning. My phone was telling me lightning was in the area, and I needed to seek shelter. As the clock ran out for the first line we heard thunder loudly and began to see more lightning. I told the judge near me I did not feel safe shooting in these conditions (we had been told on practice day that shooting would be called anytime lightning was 8 miles away or closer). He and the DOS quickly discussed the situation and then told us to hold the line. Instead of stopping shooting, they simply told us they would call it AFTER the A/B line shot their arrows. I feel very strongly that this was the wrong call to make. The weather had gotten worse in the couple of minutes this took, and I was terrified to go to the line and shoot my 6 arrows. I tried to calm myself down, so I could shoot good shots, but when you are at full draw and can SEE lightning flashing around you in your scope lens, it is very scary!
My bale and I ran to score and collect arrows and we were the first people to turn in our cards and head to our cars. Carrying our bows and everything else as the storm intensified was not fun, so I moved as quickly as I could for the shelter of my car. Once I got in, I was able to pull up the scores and see I was currently sitting tied for 1st with Jamie. I was pretty happy with that considering I felt miserable (probably from the weather and sitting in a car all day), but I knew I had work to do the next day if I didn’t want to let another gold slip through my fingers. I needed food and my bed, since the women were up first the next morning, but trying to find somewhere to eat that late ended up being a tough task.
The next morning started with some decent temperatures and humidity level. However, this wasn’t the case long. First around the 4th end, the humidity jumped up, as I suddenly felt like I was trying to breathe through a straw. This left me feeling weak and struggling to shoot 6 solid arrows each end. I made sure to take my time between each arrow, resting a little more after I shot my first 3. Around the half way point, the sun came out in full strength, which made it feel unbearable out. Many of us used head coverings or umbrellas as we walked down to score, just to shield ourselves from the sun. I wasn’t pleased with my first half. I shot a 348, with what felt like a 58 every single end. I wasn’t shooting a strong shot every arrow, and I knew I had to do better if I wanted a chance to win.
The second half didn’t feel any better, but I finished with a 351, giving me a 699 for the day. I knew there were points I had thrown away, but it was the highest score of the day, and I ended up winning Nationals by a solid 8 points! At first I was in a bit of shock, I couldn’t believe I had finally won a USA Archery National Championship, after so many silvers in a row. This means I can now officially call myself a National Champion in both the NFAA and USAA organizations (here is my post from last year when I won a NFAA national title).
Along with becoming National Champion, I also won the Easton award. This award is given every year to the male and female compound archers who score the most points across Indoor, Outdoor and Field National Championships. I had hoped to win this award last year, but being my first time shooting field, I lost way too many points in that discipline to have a shot at this award. Jesse Broadwater won this award on the men’s side, and we both were given beautiful awards as recognition of our accomplishment. (On the recurve side there is something similar named the Shank award, which was won this year by LaNola Pritchard and Brady Ellison).
I also want to take a minute to give a shootout to two of my students, who also had a great Nationals experience. One, Mary Hunter, decided to shoot up an age group this year, and she did awesome. Not only did she shoot a personal best, but she took out the (at the time) #1 ranked cadet, who has won 2 of the USAT tournaments this season.She finished in the top 10 for both qualifications and eliminations. Another student, Maya, proved what a huge improvement she has made in a year. She shot over a 20 points better than last Outdoor Nationals in qualification (even with some rough ends), and she battled through a tough bracket for eliminations, finishing in 4th. As a coach, I love seeing hard work pay off!
I’m now home until the Buckeye Classic at the end of August. I know both my husband and employer are happy I’ll be in the office and home for an extended period of time. I plan to take a short break from shooting to get caught up everywhere else in my life, then I’ll be back at it preparing for Buckeye, World Cup Finals and World Field Championships. I can’t wait to see what the end of the year has in store for me!