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HAMILTON, Ohio - With hundreds of arrows flying across the field at Joyce Park, some might say an army of Katniss Everdeens has invaded Ohio. Some archers are brand new to the sport, while others are experienced competitors, but everyone is enjoying the friendships and fun that are a major part of the "Outdoor Nationals."
"Seeing everyone and having fun" drew recurve cadet archer Noah Shedroff to this tournament, and for the most part, he's pleased with his performance: he's currently atop his category. "I missed a couple [of] points I could have gotten early on, but the second half was really good."
Over 600 youth archers are shooting their first arrows at the 2014 Easton JOAD Nationals today, while approximately 300 adult archers are competing in the 130th U.S. National Target Championships. Together, the events are known as "Outdoor Nationals," and they're boasting record attendance of over 900 archers this year.
"Meeting new people and making friends from all over, that I wouldn't even have expected, and just having fun with my family," are Meghan Petitt's favorite parts of shooting at the Easton JOAD Nationals.
The Florida-based teen is holding the top spot in the compound cadet women's qualifications after scoring her first 72 arrows this morning. Archers will score an additional 72 arrows tomorrow to complete the 144-arrow qualification round before proceeding to team and elimination events.
Part of the valuable experience archers gain at Outdoor Nationals: learning to shoot in a variety of weather conditions. Wednesday's official practice featured lightning delays, while Thursday dawned cool and breezy.
The wind didn't hold Zach Garrett back. The 19-year-old archer from Missouri found his groove today, finishing in the top 3 of the recurve senior men's division for the first time in his shooting career.
"Lately I've realized that it's primarily a mental game, and working a lot on my mental toughness versus my technical strengths, and it's helping me a lot," Garrett noted. When asked what his advice is for younger archers, he emphasized the mental aspect of the sport: "Keep your head in it, keep working. Realize that it's just as much mental if not more so than it is technical. It's a game of consistency."
Lexi Keller also battled the breeze successfully today. Hailing from Wisconsin, Keller held her own in very a tough group - featuring World No. 1 Erika Jones - to finish today on top.
"I practice in the wind a lot," Keller explained. "It was really, really windy at home, and I knew it was going to be pretty windy here too, so whenever I could I just got out and made sure I was making the good shots that I knew would make it count here."
Keller also shared her advice for the many young female archers on the field: "A lot of [archery] has to do with the mental side. Don't push yourself too hard. A little bit of encouragement and a little bit of push is good. Just keep the fun in it. Always ask questions. Come over to the senior side and ask us and see what we're doing."
Compound women's and recurve men's divisions shot their first 72 arrows this morning; the recurve women and compound men will take to the field this afternoon. For live scoring across all categories, visit http://ianseo.net/Details.php?toId=753 (Easton JOAD Nationals) and http://ianseo.net/Details.php?toId=752 (U.S. National Target Championships).
For the first time ever, Saturday's U.S. Open and Sunday's Easton JOAD Nationals Elimination Rounds will be live streamed - for free - on USA Archery's YouTube Channel at http://www.youtube.com/usaarcherytv. Photos and other event updates can be found on USA Archery's Facebook page and Twitter feed.
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