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CORTINA, Italy - The World Archery Field Championships came to a close today with exciting and intense finals matches. Archers shot three arrows at four targets set on an incredibly steep ski slope in the beautiful mountains of northeastern Italy. The first two targets set the stage, and then the next two tended to be major game changers as the third was a close, "bunny" three spot target and the fourth was a far target at a precipitous angle that challenged all.
For the compound women's gold final, seasoned competitors Paige Pearce and Slovenia's Toja Ellison were the top seeds following solid performances all week. Ellison's experience with the Pro Series has her as no stranger to these steep slopes, but Pearce, appearing unafraid, opened with a cutthroat 18 to lead by two points. Absolutely relentless, Pearce scored a 17 on the next target, refusing to open the door, picking up to a six-point lead 35-29.
Pearce slowed on the bunny, letting down a few times, but keeping her lead, 51-46 headed into the final three arrows on the far target. Just needing to get off solid shots, three 4s gave her the decisive victory 64-59, the world champion title and the Longines' Prize for Precision watch.
Barebow archer Fawn Girard competed at her first international event at last year's World Archery 3D Championships. Looking for her next challenge, she picked up field archery less than two months before the U.S. Team Trials. After winning the Trials and earning a spot on the team, Girard came to Italy, seeded 6th and shot her way to the gold final. A force to be reckoned with, Girard came back from a 10-point deficit 28-18 at the half to pick up five points on each of the next two targets, including scoring an impressive eight points on the final target to force a shoot off. Sweden's Bjorklund took the win and Girard finished beaming with the silver.
Barebow junior Laura Hughes shot for gold against Italy's Natalia Trufino. After the first two targets, Hughes was down 17-20. The third target, the close bunny offered no aid, increasing the gap to 24-28, but it wasn't until the notoriously challenging fourth target that Laura turned it on and staged a comeback. Trufino missed her first two arrows, while Hughes scored one point. Trufino scored a two and with some solid adjustments, Hughes just missed the five ring and a shoot off by millimeters, scoring a four to end the match 29-30 and clinching the silver.
"The whole match was a whirlwind, I had no idea what was going on, I was just shooting, hoping it hit the center," commented Hughes. On the last target she commented: "It wasn't as hard as it looked from the stands, but it was still really hard. I just shot a miss and then could see where it went and could adjust and get a 4."
Hughes's brother Eli Hughes competed in the junior compound events this week, but stepped up on the finals field as her coach: "I got very nervous on the last target," he laughed. "As a coach, all you can do is be there and support and if there's any minor thing that she needs to change, you're there, but it's up to her. She did great, it was very fun to be up there. I'm proud of her."
Abigail Weir finished 4th for the barebow junior women with a final 26-38 match with Sweden's Liljeström.
World Archery Indoor Champion for the junior compound women, Cassidy Cox, climbed the brackets this week from an 8th place qualification to a shot at gold. Home nation, Italy's Sara Ret crushed the finals field, posting the highest score of any archer to compete on those four targets all morning, a 67 to take the win over Cox's silver 57 finish.
USA's Savannah Vanderwier, who posted some of the highest scores in her division during qualification and match-play earlier this week, also took the field to shoot for bronze. Down five after the first target 13-18, Vanderwier turned it on, picking up a few points at the second target. It was not until the final, great challenge bale that Vanderwier achieved an astounding 17, to come back and take the win 62-61 and the bronze victory.
After a strong performance winning gold in the team rounds on this field yesterday, Connor Sears was fired up and confident for his compound junior men's final against Luxembourg's Bega. The two went back and forth, swapping the lead by small margins in a close match. Down three points headed into the final target, Sears also scored an impressive 17 points to Bega's 15 to close the gap and finish with the silver in a tight race to the finish.
After taking silver in the team finals yesterday, Brady Ellison returned for the bronze recurve final against France's Jean Charles Valladont serious and hungry for the win. The two top seeds and Rio 2016 medalists put on a good show. Ellison opened with a perfect 6 and closed the first target up two - 17-15. Ellison picked up another two points on the next target. Ellison picked up two points on the second target and Valladont took those points back on the third, bringing the score to 46-44.
With a two-point advantage headed into the final target, Ellison opened with a four. Valldont matched it. Ellison responded with a five, just out of the six, and followed with a three. Valladont drilled a six, needing a four to tie, he got it and forced a shoot off. Shooting confidently, Ellison scored a four on the tie break target. Valladont misjudged the cut and just hit the one-ring. Ellison excitedly claimed the victory and the bronze.
Top seed and 2016 champion Steve Anderson, who finished with team silver with Ellison yesterday, posted really high qualification scores and entered the compound men's bronze match determined to win. Shooting against Croatia's Buden, Anderson opened with a perfect 18. He continued to pick up steam and points on each of the next two targets to bring his lead to 51-48. Needing to keep it together for the last target, Anderson nailed three good shots, striking a six to seal the victory 66-63 with the highest men's score on the course.
Complete results from the competition can be found here. Follow USA Archery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more from the event.
Photo: World Archery
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