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NEWBERRY, Fla. - It didn't take crazy weather to produce surprises during eliminations at the Easton Foundations Gator Cup - just emerging archery talent and a few key upsets that could shake up the national rankings.
Cadet archers shot the first elimination rounds of the event, which were held immediately following yesterday's qualifications. Results showed strong talent emerging in both recurve and compound divisions.
On the recurve side, Ryan Oliver, the number one qualifier, shot his way to a gold medal victory versus a tough opponent in Hardy Trafford, 7-3, while Gus Braendle won bronze over James Newberry. Both Oliver and Trafford have been World Championship team members, and members of the Junior Dream Team. Oliver, who just turned 14, is shooting in a division comprised of mostly 15-17 year old archers.
"It feels really good to win Gator Cup because I've been working really hard to improve my game and process and I'm happy it's finally paying off," explained Oliver. "I learned how to handle myself when shooting in higher pressure situations and how to execute great shots during the really close matches."
In the recurve cadet women's category, Eliana Claps won the gold medal title, facing top qualifier Caity Farr in the final. It was a shutout victory for Claps, who has proven herself with several podium finishes at national events. Miriam Trafford, meanwhile, made sure that brother Hardy wasn't the only Trafford with a medal - she won bronze, 6-4 versus local standout Meghan Collins.
For compound archers, Jimmy Bell and Kevin Clayton shot their way into a close gold medal match, in which Bell ultimately prevailed, 141-139. There was a very close tiebreaker shoot-off for the bronze medal, with Blake Ragon ultimately taking the win from Logan Bunker, 141-141 with the "9" closest to center.
Meanwhile, fans were put on notice by Allie Blazek, Brooke Miller, Dahlia Crook and Hala Skelton, who all earned spots in the finals despite breezy conditions on the field. Blazek ultimately took the gold medal win, 133-130 versus silver medalist Miller, while Crook prevailed over Skelton for the bronze.
Today, senior and junior archers took to the field to shoot for medals of their own.
Jacob Marlow - whose name you might not know - is actually a field archery and 3D standout. Yesterday's number four qualifier stepped it up in today's eliminations, shooting his way past Rodger Willett, Jr., Steve Anderson and Reo Wilde to face Braden Gellenthien in the gold medal final.
Gellenthien delivered in all of his own matches today, hitting three perfect 150s - and a 147-145 win over Marlow to take the championship title. Wilde, who will join Gellenthien and Willett at the World Cup in Medellin next week, finished with the bronze medal win versus US teammate Bridger Deaton.
Compound archer Sarah Lance, who started her 2014 season with a win at the Vegas Shoot, was golden today as well: she took a very narrow victory over silver medalist and World No. 1 Erika Jones, 146-145. Earning a spot on the national podium for the first time in her career was Crystal Gauvin, who won a comeback victory versus Kailey Johnston for the bronze.
Fans watching the recurve archers today started to see shakeups as early as the 1/16th round, when newcomer Rich Gauvin knocked out World Cup team member Collin Klimitchek - and five-time Olympian Butch Johnson fell 5-6 to Byron Crites.
The 1/8th saw a surprising early exit by Olympic medalist Jacob Wukie, who suffered a 5-6 loss to Jason Pfister - and both Joe Fanchin and Jeremiah Cusick were out before the quarterfinals. One of the biggest upsets of the day saw LaNola Pritchard take out five-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig - who is reportedly recovering from an injury - with a quarterfinal win.
Pritchard went on to earn a silver medal versus Jennifer Hardy, who was unstoppable this weekend. The number one seed, three-time Olympian Hardy shot her way past several strong opponents today to win the gold medal, 7-3 - and Mackenzie Brown earned a medal of her own, a bronze versus Heather Koehl.
The recurve men's final was an all-Olympian showdown between hometown hero Jake Kaminski and Canada's Crispin Duenas. With a 3-3 tie after 3 ends, it was clearly anyone's game, but Duenas took a 5-3 lead and pushed ahead for a 7-3 gold medal win. Bronze went to Olympic medalist Brady Ellison, with a win over Resident Athlete Daniel McLaughlin.
The next USAT Qualifier Series event is the SoCal Showdown, beginning June 20th. Follow Team USA as it heads to the World Cup in Medellin, Colombia next week. USA Archery will carry full coverage on usarchery.org, as well as updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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