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YANKTON, South Dakota - Team USA archers are beginning to arrive at the World Archery Youth Championships, and excitement is running high in this pivotal pre-Olympic year.
Cadet and junior archers earned their spots on this team after a tough team trials process in Florida in April. But that's nothing compared to the challenge ahead: bringing home World Championships titles for Team USA.
The event will take place at a world-class training facility: the Easton Yankton Archery Complex, perhaps giving Team USA a home court advantage. The entire American squad is a strong one, and fans will recognize some of the names from other international events.
Emily Fischer, a multi-time World Champion, will try to score one more youth title competing on the compound junior women's team. Fischer's talents go beyond target archery; she's a World Field Champion, as well.
Paige Pearce is another compound junior archer who needs room for her archery trophies; this top-notch competitor holds World Championships titles as well as world Cup medals. Also an accomplished field archer, Pearce will be tough to beat at her fifth World Archery Youth Championships.
"Each time I've gone, it's gotten progressively harder," Pearce told the Yankton Press and Dakotan. "Some of those other countries have put more effort into their compound teams."
Perfecting this trifecta: Danielle Reynolds, who's had a standout 2015 so far. With "just" one other World Youth Championships under her belt, Reynolds was part of the gold medal winning cadet team at that event. Now, together with Fischer and Pearce, she'll look to defend Team USA's title.
Collin Klimitchek, competing on the recurve junior men's team, just came off the Archery World Cup in Antalya, Turkey, where he scored his first World Cup podium finish - an individual bronze, versus none other than Olympic medalist Brady Ellison.
Joining Klimitchek: his World Cup teammate Zach Garrett, the superstar rookie who will also compete in Copenhagen next month at the senior World Archery Championships. Together, these two archers will try to qualify Team USA's spots for Rio 2016 - with some help from veteran Ellison. Rounding out the team: newcomer Caleb Miller, who will gain valuable experience at this event.
How many tens does Mackenzie Brown have in her quiver? This World Cup team gold medalist - and Pan Am Championships medalist - is also the Alternate for the senior team headed to Copenhagen, and a Rio 2016 hopeful. Joining her in Yankton will be Anna Miscione and Karissa Yamaguchi, both strong youth competitors in their own right.
Stephen Manfull, Chris Bee and David Houser were named to the compound junior men's team. These junior standouts have seen success on the national tournament circuit, and will bring solid competitive experience to the U.S. squad. Bee, who is well known for his success in both the National Archery in the Schools Program as well as USA Archery events, will compete on his second World Archery Youth Championships team in Yankton.
As for the cadets, they aren't just in Yankton to learn from their junior counterparts; they're in it for hardware of their own.
Dahlia Crook - the 16 year old archer who turned heads at the Indoor World Cup Final in Las Vegas - led the compound cadet women's group during Team Trials for this event. She'll join teammates Cassidy Cox and Breanna Theodore in Yankton.
Crook, who has been coached this season by global superstar Braden Gellenthien, took a minute to give thanks on Facebook when she made the team: "Thank you so much to my awesome coach who is constantly an encouraging mentor and friend to me; I am so grateful for everything you do."
Ryan Oliver and Geun Kevin Kim, together with Min Soo Kim, comprise the recurve cadet men's team. Like Crook, Oliver also benefits from coaching by a world-class archer: compound standout Diane Watson, who is a multi-time World Cup medalist.
Recently, Oliver told USA Archery: "I'm very blessed and honored to be representing my country while competing against the best archers in the world! We all have a great opportunity this year since Youth World Championships is right here in the U.S."
Eliana Claps led the group selected to the recurve cadet women's team, which was a very close contest among the top four women. She'll be joined in Yankton by teammates Suzanna Sim and Caity Farr. All teammates have seen success on the domestic tournament circuit and will be looking to turn that into medals in Yankton.
Last - but certainly not least - the compound cadet men's team will be comprised of Daniel O'Connor, Dane Johnson, and Cole Feterl. Fans may recall Feterl from the recent Gator Cup finals, where he finished with the silver medal. And O'Connor's been putting the pedal to the metal, so to speak, also working with Gellenthien. "I've been working mainly on my mental game," Connor explains. "But form has been a huge part of the daily work. I'm stoked to get to shoot team rounds with all the other countries."
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