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The U.S. National Indoor Championships Final today saw the top 32 archers of the 2018 season across all age groups come together for a heated head to head showdown. With over $65,000 of prize money on the line, plus manufacturer's contingencies, the pressure was high and excitement filled the venue.
In the first match of the day, a major upset saw the final women's recurve entrant Molly Nugent (Gilbert, Arizona) knocked out five-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig (Denver, Colorado) in a one-arrow shootoff with a perfect 10. "It was really amazing to see how far I've come since I started archery and I showed myself how much potential I have," commented Nugent. "As soon as I won that shoot off I ran over to my parents and started jumping up and down."
Nugent ultimately finished 4th with Olympian Mackenzie Brown (Flint, Texas), new national record holder Casey Kaufhold (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) and Texas A&M archer Ariel Gibilaro (Bryan, Texas) taking the three podium spots.
Brown and Kaufhold took the match to a 6-4 finish in Brown's favor with tight shooting. "My legs were shaky, but I felt less nervous for this than I did for the Lancaster Classic," commented Brown on the last time she and 14 year-old Kaufhold went head to head. "I was really prepared for this event and worked a lot with my coach Songi [Woo] on my mental process and got that squared away so I could really come here and perform. I put a lot of arrows in between Indoor Nationals and here and this was a good way to come back from some of those challenges. And now it is outdoor season - I am so excited!"
Kaufhold was also pleased with her first USA Archery senior podium finish: "That was one of my better matches I've ever shot, I went into it feeling as confident as I could and my scores were about the same as in practice. My shots felt good and it was a pretty great day."
During the recurve men's gold final between Olympian Brady Ellison and last month's world indoor youth team bronze medalist Seth McWherter (Central City, Iowa), a fire alarm caused an emergency evacuation. Once everyone safely returned to the building, shooting resumed and McWherter, who held the advantage the entire match, ended up going to a one-arrow shoot off with Ellison.
"It was intense," shared McWherter. "I knew going into it that I needed to shoot thirties to stand a chance because that's what I did since I got here. I have yet to lose a one arrow shoot off so it was just put my arrow, put my sight in the middle, shoot a straight shot and hope it goes in the middle. The fire alarm messed me up for one arrow, but I was glad that we were able to come back and go right back into shooting. I came here knowing that if I won my first match, I'd come away with at least $1,000 and to have this big win and $8,000 just adds to the excitement. I'm taking everyone out to dinner tonight!"
Alex Bourdage (Rosemount, Minnesota) took the third spot on the recurve men's podium after a 6-0 victory over Micheal Plummer (Midland, Michigan).
The compound women's field also saw major first round upsets, including top qualifier Mary Hamm (Florence, Texas) fall 144-142 to Columbia University's Sophia Strachan (Frederick, Maryland). Strachan went on to finish with silver in a one arrow shoot off following a 143-143 tie with 2018 indoor season's breakout star Paige Pearce Gore (Red Bluff, California).
Gore was thrilled with her win, after overcoming a lot of nerves during the matches. She commented: "I actually like that the finals are one arrow at a time, so instead of thinking about shooting three, it's just like shoot one and that's how I think of it each time. Then you really have to shoot it. I took a lot of deep breaths and it probably looked like I was hyperventilating up there but it worked out."
On the indoor final as an overall event, Gore added: "I think this is a really good idea. It's a really cool way to bring the top eight together and have an awesome show down."
Compound men's silver finisher Jesse Broadwater (Ellenton, Florida) agreed: "this tournament was great. I think it's an awesome idea and it's always good to have all the top shooters in one location and shoot it down in a great finals format, so I really liked it."
Chance Beaubouef (Mount Juliet, Tennessee) took gold in 148-147 final match over Broadwater while Kris Schaff (Billings, Montana) won bronze in a 149-146 match with Dave Cousins (Standish, Maine). "You have to fall back on what you do in practice," commented Beaubouef. "it's very rewarding to be able to stand on that stage and shoot with the best in the world, you have to enjoy the moment when you're up there."
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