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DUBLIN, Ohio - The first of two days of qualification at the 134th U.S. National Target Championships began today. A misty, foggy morning heated up as quickly as the competition with over 400 archers bringing their A-game to the line.
Para recurve open men's Kevin Mather had two new world records ratified by World Archery yesterday, including his 310/360 at 70m. In the first 36 arrows today, he posted a 313 and followed by another 310 to lead the pack: "This has been a great tournament so far, commented Mather. "I'm always shooting arrows. If you want to move towards the top, you can't not practice and expect great results. So, I continue to work my butt off and be more diligent on my mental program so it feels the same each day, each arrow, each end. That's where the top 10% separates from the top 20%. I'm building the machine between the body and the mind and seeing what we can do with it."
Compound men's qualification leader at the half, Braden Gellenthien had similar commentary on his success: "Things started out a little rough today - I opened up missing 5 points in the first 3 ends. I was really surprised with such a low score because my form felt so great and I was feeling very confident. I stayed focused, stuck with my game plan and managed to string together seven 60s in a row to battle back into contention. I recently added a gym routine and a cleaner diet to my training regimen and it's crazy how quickly my body has responded positively to it. I feel stronger and calmer than ever before and the recent successes really motivate me to keep my nose to the grindstone and keep moving forward."
Gellenthien's 711 puts him 4 points clear the rest of an incredibly competitive bracket including Tate Morgan's 707 and Steve Anderson's 705. Jamie Van Natta, Sarah Lance and Breanna Theodore topped day one of the compound senior women's qualification with 696, 692 and 690 respectively.
On the senior recurve field, Brady Ellison led the men with a 9-point margin as his 680 topped the charts over Matt Requa's 671 and cadet archer Andrew Park's 655. 16 year-old Park is one of many youth archers shooting up at this week's events for the great experience and also likely because qualification, for eligible participants, also stand as the World Archery Championships and Pan American Games - U.S. Team Trials, Stage 1.
14 year-old Casey Kaufhold finished second on the senior recurve women's field behind Mackenzie Brown with 647 and 653 respectively. "This felt like my best day of the year in competition," commented Brown. "I've felt like my scores have just not been where I want them to be and what I know I'm capable of. I've been successful, but I know what I can shoot and so lately I've been working on my mind and being overly positive. When I focus on that and let everything else happen, I know I train enough to be able to trust myself and my shot."
As this event heats up competition headed into the next two years of World Championships and the Tokyo 2020 Games, Brown added: "I think it's really nice to have people coming up through the ranks, especially Casey, she's doing really well and has a strong mindset. Coming into this next year it's really crucial for us to have a strong team. Casey and several other women in our division have been shooting well this whole year and that's really encouraging as someone who also expects to be on the team."
Dark horse Sarah Briscoe topped the barebow senior women's qualification today with a 12-point lead and a strong 561 to start the tournament. Briscoe has been shooting for almost one year and is having an incredible breakout season. On her success in barebow nation, a division proud of their camaraderie in competition, Briscoe commented: "I really got into it deep - I'd never shot a bow before last August, started on a little wooden one and then really picked it up this spring. Barebow, to me, is chasing a challenge. There's nothing to help you when it's just you and your bow, so it takes a certain kind of person who wants to chase that challenge, so I really enjoy it. I've got my coach, my bow and I'm just out here trying to push it."
John Demmer III had 13 points over the rest of the barebow senior men's field with a 643 to open Outdoor Nationals with Ben Rogers and John Dillinger currently sitting second and third behind him.
In the masters divisions, competition continues to grow in size and level. With the first ever World Archery Masters Championships just days away, masters archers on the field are stepping it up. With a 635, Glenn Meyers leads across the recurve masters men's groups and Laura Bennett Shelton sits in front of the women's classes with a 623. With a 696, Scott Starnes leads the compound masters men while his wife, Dee Starnes, sits tied for first on the women's field with Alanna Dunaway. Richard Barker and Rick Stonebraker closely lead the barebow masters men while Jenifer Stoner took a 23-point lead over the women.
Follow live results this weekend here and don't forget to tune in for the U.S. Open Finals Live Stream at 5pm ET on Saturday, August 11th. Official photos from the events are available here. Follow USA Archery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more from the event. Join the conversation with #OutdoorNationals.
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