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PHOENIX, Arizona - Draw bow. Let bow down. Repeat.
Thanks to strong and variable winds that picked up as the day went on, yesterday's AAE Arizona Cup qualifications went from a challenging event in the morning to a serious struggle for some in the afternoon. Even some of the world's best archers found themselves shut out of the ten ring - the center of the multicolored target face used in the Olympic Games - and were forced to settle for scores below their average.
The AAE Arizona Cup is a World Ranking Event and Para World Ranking Event, a USAT Qualifier Series Event, and the first stage of the U.S. Team Trials for the World Archery Championships. It's home to over 550 archers from across the world this week, who will go on to compete in team eliminations and head-to-head individual eliminations in what's quickly becoming a high-pressure warm-up to events like the World Archery Championships and the Pan American Games.
Perhaps the biggest story of the day was the emergence of USA Archery Resident Athlete Zachary Garrett as a dominant force on the recurve men's side. Garrett - literally just 20 years old - led the field, unofficially breaking the national record with a 688 out of 720 possible points. Canada's Crispin Duenas qualified second with a 677, while Team USA Olympic silver medalist Jake Kaminski took the third seed with 674.
"[I'm] happy with how today went, he noted in an Instagram post to fans. "Shots felt good, setting the pace for the rest of the tournament."
The recurve women, who competed in the afternoon along with the compound men, had stronger winds to contend with. They didn't stop five time Olympian Khatuna Lorig, however. Team USA's highest individual finisher at the London 2012 Olympic Games showed sheer determination as she led the field by over 20 points, qualifying first with a 659. Just behind her: Mexico's Mariana Avitia with a 638, and Colombia's Natalia Sanchez, shooting a 631.
The AAE Arizona Cup is also hosting para archers from literally across the world, giving fans a preview of the increasing level of talent they'll see at the World Archery Para Championships and Parapan Am Games later this summer.
U.S. Paralympian Lee Ford-Faherty led the recurve women's open category with a 539, leading Mongolia's Oyun Buyanjargal, who shot a 495. Ranked third: Fabiola Dergovics of Brazil, who scored a 492.
The United States also qualified first in the recurve men's open category, thanks to Michael Lukow, part of the Army's World Class Athletes Program, who delivered a strong 638 for the top ranking. Japan's Tomohiro Ueyama shot a 608 to end in second, while U.S. Paralympian Eric Bennett, now shooting a recurve bow with a mouth tab, hit a 607 for the third spot.
While recurve archers shot a distance of 70 meters on a 122 centimeter target, the compound archers shot 50 meters, but on a smaller target with just six scoring rings. In strong winds, this meant that even compound archers, with faster bows, ran the risk of missing the target entirely.
One of the most competitive categories on the field: the compound men's open para group. Paralympic medalist Matt Stutzman - well known for shooting with his feet and a shoulder strap release aid - delivered a field-leading 682 in strong afternoon winds. Canada's Robert Hudson trailed in second with a 661, while USA's Lance Thornton, a Rio 2016 hopeful and U.S. veteran, shot a 658.
The compound women's open para archers were equally solid. Brazil's Jane Gogel was unstoppable with a 662; Canada's Karen Van Nest trailed by nine points, with a 653. In third: Japan's Nako Hirasawa, shooting a 642.
Chuck Lear, U.S. veteran and Team USA Paralympian, led the W1 para category with a 555, though he expressed some frustration with the strong afternoon winds. Fellow veteran, 2012 Paralympian Jerry Shields, delivered a 532 for second, while Lisa Coryell was third with 468.
The women's compound category was led by Toja Cerne of Slovenia, shooting a strong 685. She was closely followed by USA's Jamie Van Natta, multi-time world record holder, who also shot a 685. In third: Allie Blazek, also of the United States, who has been a podium mainstay in the youth divisions. She finished qualifications by putting up a solid 674.
"Arizona Cup started good for me," Cerne said in a Facebook post. "I had a lot of fun shooting with all my friends again. Can't wait to shoot open team [event]."
Team USA's Reo Wilde, who holds multiple world championship titles, led the compound men's field with a 703. Just behind him: teammate Rodger Willett, Jr., delivering a 699. Following close behind was Steve Anderson, who will join Wilde at the World Cup in Shanghai next month. Anderson shot a 697 to qualify third.
For complete qualification results and live scores throughout the week, visit Ianseo's live scoring website.
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