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Hundreds of archers gathered Sunday under the hot Florida sun to begin elimination rounds at the second annual Easton Foundations Gator Cup, the second USAT Qualifier Series Event of 2011. With prize money and USAT Ranking points at stake, the tension on the field was palpable as the competition became more intense.
"It's a great tournament because there are so many good shooters on the field," noted one archer. "Anything can happen." Contending with a tricky, variable wind, the recurve men narrowed their field to eight archers, fighting it out for semifinal spots. Ultimately advancing past the quarterfinals were Brady Ellison, who defeated opponent Joe Fanchin 7-1 for his spot in the gold medal match, while Thomas Stanwood failed to stop Jake Kaminski, who defeated him in a 6-0 shutout to face Ellison for gold.
Equally interesting was the competition between the recurve women, with Karen Scavotto returning to begin her 2011 season with a 6-0 semifinal victory over Khatuna Lorig. Two-time Olympian Jennifer Nichols, who is coached by Alexander Kirillov, took her match against Heather Koehl with a 6-2 decision, advancing to the gold medal match against Scavotto and leaving Koehl to face Lorig for the bronze.
In the compound men's category, there was no such thing as a safe bet, with several surprises going into the quarterfinal matches. In the semifinals, it was Ben Cleland meeting Shane Wills, and Braden Gellenthien facing off against James Butts for berths to the medal rounds. Cleland, with a 146-137 win, advanced to face Gellenthien, who won his tiebreaker against Butts.
The compound women were equally interesting to watch, with Jamie Van Natta narrowly defeating Erika Anschutz to move forward to the gold medal match, while Kailey Johnston also took her match against opponent Christie Colin to advance to the medal rounds.
The finals were an exciting experience for spectators, who were treated to several very close contests. In the men's recurve category, Fanchin and Stanwood were locked in a back and forth contest before Fanchin ultimately pulled ahead, winning the match 6-5 to take the bronze. Ellison, facing off against fellow Resident Athlete Kaminski, started with a deficit but ultimately came from behind to win the match, winning the gold 6-4 and giving Kaminski the silver.
On the women's side, it came down to a one arrow shoot-off between Lorig and Koehl, with Lorig winning the bronze medal by a 6-5 margin. For the gold medal match, Scavotto began with the lead but Nichols ultimately gained the advantage, eventually winning the gold with a 6-2 victory.
The compound round introduced earlier this season produced several close results in both the men's and women's categories, with Wills shooting a 147 to Butts' 142, taking the bronze by 5. In the gold medal match, it was a close contest between Cleland and Gellenthien, with Cleland eventually taking a one point lead to win the gold, giving Gellenthien the silver.
For the compound women, both matches were within two points or less, and it was Colin who eventually gained a single point lead to win the bronze medal in her contest against Anschutz. In the match between Van Natta and Johnston, it was a two point win for Van Natta, who took the gold medal, 146-144.
Thanks to the sponsorship of the Easton Foundations, the Gator Cup awarded tens of thousands of dollars in total prize money to the top eight archers in each of those four categories, ending the second USAT Qualifier Series Event of the 2011 season.
The top eight archers in each of the above categories will advance to Stage 1 of the World Archery Championships Team Trials, which begin on Sunday and continue into Monday at the same venue. The second Trials event will take place next month in Bloomfield, New Jersey, in conjunction with the Gold Cup.
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