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Some might say that the conclusion to the Vegas Shoot - in which archers who are tied for first place shoot a sudden death tiebreaker - was a world-class upset. After all, according to World Archery, fans saw a 20-year-old first-time finalist outlast an experienced and expanded field.
Not unexpected at all, according to archery insiders, when the winner turned out to be Alex Wifler.
"Alex works as hard as anyone I know in archery," notes his coach, Mel Nichols. "He trains hard daily and whenever he has a problem or a question he always asks me. Even if I'm traveling around the work or he is at a tournament. This tells me he values every shot he takes. That's what makes a champion."
Known for both his tenacity and kindness to others on the archery field, Illinois native Wifler holds the junior world record for the 15-arrow elimination match, and has even been seen practicing in the snow to stay competitive during the winter months.
Fans might have expected to see Wifler in the finals of the championship recurve event, not the compound. Wifler was a regular on the national event circuit, shooting his Olympic style bow until a hand injury forced a quick switch to compound.
That switch proved to be a game-changer for Wifler, who won Vegas Shoot prize money to the tune of $30,000 for his efforts.
The Vegas Shoot consists of three 30-arrow rounds, shot over three days. A perfect score is 300 points per round, using the second innermost ring to score tens, and the "X" is counted for tiebreakers.
Out of a field of 262 archers in his division, Wifler finished his final round with a perfect score of 900 for the weekend, and 84 arrows in the X ring - incredible shooting by any standard. His finish advanced Wifler to the famous "Vegas Shoot-off."
This sudden-death phase of competition takes place among the archers who finish with a perfect 900 - and includes the "Lucky Dog," an archer who shoots an 899 but gets to earn a spot in the final through a secondary shoot-off. 17 archers competed. The rules changed a bit this year: from the very first end, arrows were scored using the X as a ten, following World Archery rules for compound shooters.
The line-up included reigning and previous world champions and indoor world record holders Mike Schloesser (NED) and Christopher Perkins (CAN); former Vegas winners Chance Beaubouef (USA); Jesse Broadwater (USA); Michael Anderson (USA) - and lucky dog Josh Schaff (USA).
Ten archers went out in the first pass.
Seven archers shot a perfect 30 - and continued in the competition.
Reigning Vegas Champion Schloesser shot nine in the second end, finishing with 28, along with Scott Starnes (USA). Canada's Perkins edged one out off the 10-ring - as did Broadwater and Henry Bass (USA).
Two remained: Americans Levi Morgan, and Wifler.
Morgan put all three arrows out of the middle the next end, Wifler one of his first two. Left alone on the line, Wifler had a chance to win it - and he only needed an eight.
Wifler shot nine - and in one of the quickest Vegas Shoot finals in recent memory became the 2015 Vegas Champion. Morgan settled for second, while Broadwater took third place.
Wifler told World Archery that he'd been switching back and forth between recurve and compound - but that's about to change. "I'm definitely sticking with compound from here on out," he said after the win was announced.
There were other notable finishes for U.S. archers for this event, as well. American compounder Sarah Lance, last year's Vegas Champion, took third place. First and second places went to Sara Prieels of Belgium, and Sara Lopez of Colombia.
The freestyle limited flights were won by Paralympic champion Jeff Fabry, while Collin Klimitchek scored first place in the recurve flights. Rodger Willett, Jr., World Cup champion, won the freestyle unlimited championship senior division. Dewayne Martin clinched the title in the barebow championship group, with 851 total points out of a possible 900.
For the recurve women, five-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig prevented an all-Korea podium sweep with a third place finish, just behind Jo Seung Hyeon and Kim Min Jung. In the recurve men's group, the Korean archers claimed all three top spots, with Olympic champion Oh Jin Hyek in first, followed by Byeong Yeon Min and Jaeh Yeong Kim.
Read more about Las Vegas 2015. World Archery Communications contributed to the text of this article.
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