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YANKTON, South Dakota - The finals of the World Archery Youth Championships had incredible highlights that speak to the growth of archery worldwide, but most especially in the United States, where 24 of the country's best young archers took home 14 total medals and two new world records on their home court.
The American archers, cheered by an enthusiastic audience, won three world titles, seven silver medals, and four bronze medals in an incredible show of archery talent.
The compound junior women's team of Paige Pearce, Danielle Reynolds and Emily Fischer earned their world title after a tough matchup with Colombia, a team featuring World No. 1 Sara Lopez.
"None of us was better than the other," said Reynolds. "We were all consistent. If someone shot a bad shot, the other one made it up for all of us. It was like a give and take. We are all just super excited, we - me and Emily - won the last youth worlds as cadets, and as juniors wanted to win it again."
Veteran shooter Pearce agreed: "We knew we three are consistent archers, all we can do was make the shots and expect the best. I was defending my title from last time… it's my fifth youth world champs and I have won gold every single time with the USA."
Likewise, both compound cadet teams delivered gold medal wins. "Daniel shot insane and cleaned the whole thing," said Cole Feterl of teammate Daniel O'Connor; they competed alongside teammate Dane Johnson. "It was an awesome experience!" O'Connor said of winning the world title after a close contest with Great Britain: "It was a total rush. First time any of us has ever been on a stage like that. We all shot great."
Not to be outdone, the compound cadet women's team of Dahlia Crook, Breanna Theodore and Cassidy Cox took their own world championship gold medal versus a strong team from Mexico. "It was really fun," Cox said. "We knew it was going to be tough against Mexico because they are good team, too. We fought hard."
Theodore explained the challenges the team had in their match: "The target was definitely darker to see and the first arrow I shot I was really nervous so I kept thinking to myself that I've just got to have good form. After that, they started pounding and I got my confidence back. It was so incredible to shoot with these two ladies."
For her part, Crook took medals of each color; not only was she part of the gold medal winning women's team, but she also earned silver with Johnson in the compound cadet mixed team event, and a hard-fought individual bronze medal.
"It was nice to shoot in the field before my individual match," Crook explained. "The shoot-off was awesome! After I shot 26 in my first end, I kind of had to sight back in because the wind changed a little bit and the shot started to feel good. The shoot-off was the best part, I just love shoot-offs!"
The compound finals also saw silver medals for compound junior archer David Houser in the individual event, as well as the compound junior men's team of Chris Bee, Steven Manfull and Houser in a close matchup with Turkey. The compound junior mixed team of Reynolds and Bee also won a bronze medal.
In the recurve finals, Team USA showed strength and grace under pressure. Eliana Claps, competing in the recurve cadet women's individual event, won the bronze medal in a shootout with Tanya Giaccheri of Italy.
"It's just a blessing that I was able to get up there and had the opportunity to shoot," Claps explained. "It's a fascinating feeling that with all the adrenaline through me, I was able to still stay strong and shoot my shot. I'm happy with my shooting and experience. It was just great shooting, good scores. It's amazing not only to get a medal here but in the States with all my family and friends supporting me."
Both recurve men's teams earned silver medals shooting against tough squads from Korea. Ryan Oliver, Geun Woo Kim and Minsoo Kim all brought their A-game to the field but were just edged out by gold medalists Korea. Claps and Oliver will both also return home with bronze medals from their win in the recurve cadet mixed team event.
"One of my goals this year was to win a medal at this tournament and I was able to accomplish that," Oliver said in a Facebook post. "I was so blessed to be able to shoot the way I did this week and I'm so thankful for all of the experiences here and the amazing team I was able to be a part of!"
The recurve junior men's team of Zach Garrett, Collin Klimitchek and Caleb Miller came away as silver medalists from these World Championships, facing off against Korea in the final. The event was excellent training for Garrett and Klimitchek, who have also made the World Archery Championships team for next month's Olympic qualifier.
Individually, Klimitchek and teammate Mackenzie Brown both came out with silver medals in the recurve junior division as well. Brown met Chia-Mao Peng of Chinese Taipei in the final; while Brown took a solid initial 4-0 lead, Peng delivered a string of perfect 30s that were quite literally impossible to beat. Klimitchek took his own silver after a tough matchup with Korea's Byeongyeon Min.
Thanks to the efforts of the entire team, the U.S. squad led the medal count for this World Championships event. National Head Coach KiSik Lee expressed his pride in the team's accomplishments: "On behalf of USA Archery, THANK YOU to all of the team members and staff! We made history for USA Archery with 14 medals! Wow! I am very proud of our team and thank you for all your hard work!"
See video of the finals, photos from the entire event, and all results at World Archery's website.
Thanks to World Archery for several of the quotes in this article.
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