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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado - USA Archery's first U.S. National Indoor Championships Final last week saw several collegiate archers strong in the mix for ultimate honors. The Indoor Final invitational hosted the top finishers in the compound and recurve men and women's divisions after all age groups were combined in a shoot off for over $65,000 in prize money. USA Archery was proud to see several Collegiate Archery Program athletes make the shoot off, and take top finishes in the event.
In the recurve women's division, Arizona State University first-year Molly Nugent was the final qualifier and faced five-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig in her first match of the day. Upsetting Lorig in stunning fashion during a one-arrow shoot off, Nugent went on to finish 4th in the division in a bronze final against Texas A&M's Ariel Gibilaro, a kinesiology major with extensive international archery experience representing the USA.
"It was pretty amazing and sort of surreal to be there because I didn't expect to make it," shared Nugent.
Gibilaro shared Nugent's excitement at participating in the event: "I thought the experience was really great. I felt the most nervous that I have in a while, which was good because I've been working on my mental program and I was able to put that into practice at this tournament."
Silver medalist in the compound women's bracket was Sophia Strachan, a sophomore on Columbia University's Varsity Archery Team and the reigning junior world field champion. "I barely made it to the finals. I held onto the eighth slot by just one point and I had all of my midterm exams that week so I wasn't even sure it was a good idea for me to go," shared Strachan. "It's an honor to be invited to the finals and there are so many archers capable of making the top eight, so I felt very lucky to have been given the opportunity."
USA Archery's Collegiate Archery Program allows archers to train and compete in archery at all levels while pursuing a degree. For many archers, the recreational fun is a huge benefit to their collegiate experience, but for most student-athletes, the Collegiate Archery Program allows them to be on a level playing field with others who are making the same commitment to academics and have to balance practice with a busy schedule. It can be a great challenge to compete at the same level as archers who are able to make the sport their highest priority, but these archers proved it is possible.
Strachan added: "It is hard balancing school and archery but I would imagine it's not so different from having a job. There are very few women that can afford to make a living solely on archery, so I'm sure there's always a balancing act. I definitely can't practice as much at school as I can when I'm home. Last year (my first year), that really freaked me out but I think this year I'm learning that if I place my confidence in something other than the number of arrows I shoot, I can still be competitive."
Columbia's Varsity Head Coach and USA Archery Level 5-NTS certified Coach Derek Davis added: "It's long been my belief that a full time collegiate archer can also compete on an elite level. With quality coaching, and proper training plan, it's possible. But more import, it starts with the commitment of the Student-Athlete. It's time we fill this critical gap in our development pipeline."
Gibilaro agreed - when time to practice may be limited, it's important to make your practice count and to have a training plan in place. "I noticed a lot of times, myself included that with our school schedule, we're like 'okay I only have an hour to shoot,' so we just go and shoot some arrows and then your friend is there and you talk to them and it's not very focused or structured, just shooting arrows at a target. It's definitely better than not practicing at all, but it's better to have a plan of how many arrows you're going to shoot, if you're going to score, if you're going to shoot matches against someone, or do timing drills, so that way you're really focused on improving your skill."
Gibilaro advises: "If you're really serious about archery and getting better, you have to consider archery just like another class. You schedule time to go to class and study, and it's the same thing with archery; set out a block of time out of your day to go and shoot, or even work with a stretch band or shot trainer."
Nugent echoed: "School has to be my priority, but I have to find the perfect balance to make time to do what I love. If I know I have a busy week like with finals, I plan everything out with when I study and when I'll practice and I write down what I'm going to focus on at each practice and dedicate myself to that one thing and that really helps me feel like I accomplished something that day and worked the same amount as any other day."
When Nugent first started college this past fall, she had to learn to deal with the changes to her ability to practice and train: "It was definitely a really hard adjustment at first. My archery took a little back step and I had to work really hard to get it back to the level I knew I could take it to. That was a really good experience for me because I learned to keep working at it and work even harder than ever before. You can shoot to the best of your ability whether you're doing college and archery or anything else in your life."
Learn more about USA Archery's Collegiate Archery Program and the U.S. National Indoor Championships. Complete results from the competition are available here. For more, follow USA Archery on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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