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PHOENIX - Overheard at the Arizona Cup:
"How do you shoot in weather like this?"
"Point and pray."
The AAE Arizona Cup - a World Ranking Event and the first US Archery Team (USAT) Qualifier for 2014 - was shot under mostly sunny skies and calm winds - until Sunday.
With gusts in the vicinity of 15-20 miles per hour, upsets and surprises ruled the day. After qualifying rounds that ranked many of the world's best archers exactly where they should have finished, and a day of team rounds that gave fans a preview of this year's World Cup action, the elimination rounds threw everyone a curveball.
As archers advanced through head-to-head matches, the wind first became evident in the compound women's scores: for example, Pascale Lebecque, one of France's top archers, came up with a 123 to advance to the 1/16th - a score almost unheard of in a division that regularly sees match scores in the low to mid 140s (out of a possible 150).
As the wind continued to pick up, brackets saw serious upheaval in the 1/16th and 1/8th rounds: Sonia Taniguchi (USA), ranked 18th for compound women, stopped 2nd seed Jamie Van Natta in a tiebreaker. For recurve men, 29th seed Andrew Matteo (USA) knocked out 4th seed Juan Rene Serrano (MEX), heavily favored as a medal contender. Chris Webster (USA), ranked 27th, overcame 3-time Olympic medalist Marco Galiazzo (ITA), 6-2.
On the recurve women's side, Mackenzie Brown (USA), ranked 17th, edged out number one seed Ana Maria Rendon (COL). Finally, Paralympic medalist Matt Stutzman (USA), ranked 41st, stopped 9th seed Roberto Hernandez (ESA) in the compound men's group.
As the field narrowed, the archers who shot their way to the windy semifinals proved they deserved to be there.
For the recurve men, USA's Brady Ellison had the comeback of the event, showing that home court advantage matters. Facing a tough opponent in Italy's Luca Melotto, Ellison started out with a 0-2 deficit that quickly turned into a 1-5 match. Fighting his way back, Ellison won the fourth set outright, then forced a 5-5 tie which he won in a one arrow shoot off.
In the bronze medal match, it was Team USA's Jeremiah Cusick who clinched a 6-4 win, showing considerable skill in his match versus Velez, who ended in fourth.
Brown was steady throughout her matches, shooting tight groups to clinch her spot in the gold medal final, where she met Olympian Alejandra Valencia. Though she left the first set to chance, Brown came back to tie the second set and win the third and fourth outright. With a 1-1 tie on the final set, Brown won the gold medal, giving Valencia the silver.
The recurve women's bronze medal matchup proved to be a win for Olympic veteran Jennifer Hardy (USA), who won in a perfect one-arrow shoot-off versus Mexico's Gina Gonzalez.
There were a few notable absences on the compound women's side. USA's Christie Colin had an early exit in the 1/16th to Colombia's Maja Marcen, while American teammate and world no. 1 Erika Jones was edged out of the quarterfinals by 1 point to Sara Lopez (COL).
France's Sophie Dodemont faced Lopez for the gold medal, and these two archers shot strong scores despite the wind. It was a close contest, but ultimately Dodemont prevailed for the gold, winning 147-145 versus silver medalist Lopez.
The sole U.S. archer remaining in the compound women's group was Angela Bradley, who faced Mexico's Linda Ochoa for bronze. It was a decisive victory for Ochoa, who started out strong and finished with a 143-136 win.
The compound men's gold medal matchup was a smackdown between world no. 2 ranked Braden Gellenthien and Bridger Deaton, both from Team USA. Gellenthien was perfect for the first two ends, and dropped only three points over the course of the match, clinching the win 147-144 against Deaton, who earned silver.
Mexico's Mario Cardoso was the winner of the compound men's bronze medal match, shooting a 143 to Rodger Willett, Jr.'s 140 to clinch the victory.
Cadet archers also shot the same format, with qualifications followed by elimination rounds. In the cadet compound women's category, Allie Blazek (USA) was the gold medalist, followed by Carolina Estrada (MEX) with silver and Ana Vazquez (MEX) with bronze. For the cadet compound men, Kevin Clayton (USA) took the gold medal; Jimmy Bell (USA) claimed silver, while Jose Del Bosque (MEX) won bronze.
On the recurve side, Amanda Tamayo (USA) won gold in the cadet women's category over Eliana Claps (USA), who earned silver; Alice Buswell (USA) claimed the bronze medal win. For the recurve cadet men, it was Humberto Arellano (MEX) winning gold; silver went to Ji Dam Lee (USA), while Gabriel Perez (MEX) won bronze.
Tomorrow, para archers will participate in elimination round matchplay; placements will be used for the para world ranking.
Visit http://ianseo.net/Details.php?toId=536 for complete results; photos can be found on USA Archery's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/usaarchery. The action picks up again starting May 9 with the Gator Cup, the next USAT Qualifier Series Event.
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