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Chula Vista, CA - The SoCal Showdown, in its second year, attracted many of the country's top archers to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, where they were surrounded by palm trees and picturesque mountains, at a facility steeped in the tradition of training to win.
Saturday's qualification round consisted of seventy two arrows shot under clear skies with a strong breeze that many archers deemed tricky. "The first half was windy, and it got windier as we went, but that seems to be typical of the area here," noted one competitor.
Miranda Leek (IA), coming off a gold medal mixed team win at the Ogden Archery World Cup last week, was strong enough to hold on to the top qualification spot for the recurve women's class with a 637. Following closely were four time Olympian Khatuna Lorig (CA) with her score of 636, and Kristin Braun (CA), who shot a 613 thanks to a strong performance on the first 36 arrows.
For the recurve men, Brady Ellison (AZ), who last week became the first recurve archer in history to win three World Cup stages, finished atop his category's qualifications with 661. He was followed by fellow Resident Athlete Peter Kelchner (NM), shooting a 657, and Jacob Wukie (OH), the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Alternate, with a 654.
Just seven senior compound women competed in this event, and they were led by Jamie Van Natta (OH), who shot a 685 despite the windy conditions to end in the number one spot. She was followed by World Cup medalist Diane Watson (FL) who shot a 668 to end her day; Samantha Neal (NY) was just two points behind with a 666 to qualify number three.
Rodger Willett, Jr. (VA), following his own gold medal hat trick at the Ogden Archery World Cup, shot a solid 706 to take the top seed in the men's compound category yesterday. World Cup teammates Reo Wilde (ID) and Braden Gellenthien (VA) joined him in the coveted top three positions with a 701 and 699 respectively.
While junior and senior archers would continue in today's elimination round match play, the tournament for the cadets ended with yesterday's qualification round. In the recurve cadet men's group, the top archers were Chris Luman (GA), Nathan Yamaguchi (AZ) and Andrew Mateo (AZ). For the recurve cadet women, medals were won by Heather Trafford (LA), Ariel Gibilaro (CT) and Lauren Clamon (CA).
The top compound cadet men were Hunter Barthels (TX), Adam Stringham (AZ) and James Rutherford (AZ), while Alexis Madrid (MEX), Kannsas Michaels (PA) and Hunter Jackson (MI) won top honors in the compound cadet women's category.
Many archers continued on Saturday with the mixed team elimination rounds, for which complete results were not available as of this writing. This was a fun highlight for many competitors, including Lorig, who teamed up with son Levan Onashvili (CA) to participate. "We did (well) for the first time and (despite) very windy conditions," commented Lorig. "We won our first match but lost our second match to Brady Ellisona and Miranda Leek - it was fun."
A "best of the best" fun match also took place which pitted number one world ranked archers Ellison and Willett against one another at 70 meters. Elllison took the first match, after which the two powerhouse shooters tied for four consecutive matches before Ellison took the win, 6-4.
Sunday dawned slightly overcast with relatively little wind, as archers took to the field to determine the champions of this event. Archers in the junior and senior categories participated, including several para archers in the recurve and compound divisions. There were some surprises in Sunday's match play, including archers Jesse Broadwater (PA), Jake Kaminski (CA), Butch Johnson (CT), Vic Wunderle (NC), Heather Koehl (WI) and Logan Wilde (UT) all being eliminated before or during the quarterfinals.
Leek showed strong shooting in her semifinal match against Erin Mickelberry (WA), taking a 7-1 victory to advance to the gold medal match, where she would face Lorig, who had a 6-0 quarterfinal win over fellow Resident Athlete Braun. Leek, who has been dubbed the "American Archery Thunderbolt," is the young addition to the upper echelon of the women's recurve category, and has proved a solid teammate for Lorig and Jennifer Nichols (TX) at the World Archery Championships and World Cup events.
In the recurve women's bronze medal match, it was a win for Mickelberry, who started out strong and never looked back in her match against Braun. With a 6-0 victory, Mickelberry took her first national event podium finish of the 2011 season. For the gold medal match, it was a contest between Leek and Lorig, with Leek posting seven points to Lorig's three to win her second SoCal Showdown in a row, while Lorig took the silver.
For the recurve men, it was Ellison, Tim Hines (WA), Wukie and Kelchner advancing to the semifinals, with Hines, the 20th ranked archer, defeating several formidable opponents on his way to the semis. Ellison, however, was able to advance past Hines to the gold medal match with a 6-0 shutout win, while Wukie, who had stopped teammate Kaminski in the quarters, advanced past Kelchner with a 6-4 victory.
Hines faced Kelchner for the bronze medal, and it was a close match between these two archers, with a back and forth battle for the bronze. Ultimately, it was Kelchner who prevailed with a 6-4 win. Ellison and Wukie then faced off for gold, and Ellison, no stranger to the gold medal match this tournament season, showed his determination to finish the year with another win, taking the hardware with a 6-0 shutout decision.
The compound women's group was narrowed to Van Natta, Watson, Paige Pearce (CA) and Samantha Neal (NY), with Watson taking a 141-136 win over Neal to ensure her berth to the gold medal match. Van Natta showed equal determination in her contest with Pearce, scoring a 140 to her opponent's 135 to punch her ticket to the final as well.
Shooting for the bronze, Neal had a three point lead over Pearce after the first three ends, and increased it to four points with one end remaining. Keeping her opponent at bay with that four point advantage, Neal won the bronze medal, 137-133. In the gold medal final, Van Natta and Watson were closely matched, with just one point ultimately deciding the match in Van Natta's favor, giving her the gold medal to Watson's silver, 136-135.
Willett, now the only compound archer ever to win three consecutive World Cup stages, was strong in his match versus Chris Oosterlinck (CA), posting a 145-142 win to edge out his opponent for a spot in the gold medal match. Gellenthien and Reo Wilde both needed their A-game in their match against one another, which came down to a one point edge for Gellenthien, leaving Wilde and Oosterlinck to shoot for bronze while Gellenthien and Willett faced off for gold.
In the bronze medal match, Wilde took an early lead over Oosterlinck, with a trhee point lead at the half, which he maintained going into the final end. Though Oosterlinck was able to narrow the gap to two points, he was unable to edge out World Champion Wilde, who took the medal, 148-146. Shooting for gold were Gellenthien and Willett, in a rematch from last week's gold medal final at the Ogden Archery World Cup. This time, it was Gellenthien who prevailed, shooting his way to a 146-140 victory over silver medalist Willett.
The SoCal Showdown was the final U.S. Archery Team (USAT) Qualifier Series Event for 2011; the next U.S. event for many archers will be the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, which will take place in College Station, Texas beginning September 28. Click here for complete scores from the SoCal Showdown.
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