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COLLEGE STATION, Texas - For the top 16 men and women, the Road to Rio made a big stop in Aggieland this morning with the beginning of U.S. Olympic Team Trials. This first nomination took qualification scores from yesterday's Texas Shootout and cut almost 250 archers down to just 32.
The men and women shoot round robin matches against each other over the course of today and tomorrow, earning points for winning matches, as well as their 3-arrow average value in addition to points for placement in qualification and bonus points for high scores yesterday.
Mackenzie Brown, who finished qualification in second, won 7 of 8 matches today with an arrow average over 9 points, for an impressive first place seat at the conclusion of day one.
Brown, who started archery in middle school, grew up with Jennifer Hardy and Khatuna Lorig as her role models. She has photos of herself "super tiny standing next to Jenny" and now they're almost the same height.
Brown shared: "I looked up to them because they'd been to the Olympics, which was always my dream. Making the Olympic team now would mean everything to me. This has been my life for the past 10 years. For every day that it was really hard this would be monumental."
Sean McLaughlin (West Chester, Ohio) finished the day tied for first with Olympic silver medalist Brady Ellison and agreed with Brown: "I don't know how to describe it. It's something I've wanted for so long, and it's something I've worked so hard for over almost four years at the [Chula Vista Olympic] Training Center. I don't think I even have a word for what it would mean to make it on the Olympic Team."
He added: "I'm just trying to make the best shots I can; that's all anybody can do. You can't control what anyone else is going to go out there in do. Obviously getting your equipment in order is important going into something like this because you want to go in knowing your equipment is doing everything it can too."
Ariel Gibilaro (North Branford, Connecticut) was the only archer on the field to win all eight matches today, and tomorrow's remaining seven matches promise exciting action. Follow along live as these archers make their way on the road to Rio here. For more, follow USA Archery on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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