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NIMES, France - Team USA archers got off to a very strong start at this week's World Archery Indoor Championships, with compound archer Erika Jones (Grand Island, Neb.) and the compound junior women's team both ending the day with new world records. Additionally, the compound junior men's and women's teams both clinched berths into this weekend's gold medal matches.
Jones, who has been the "girl on fire" since last year, proved why she's dominated the world rankings, scoring a 595 in qualifications today. The score broke the world record previously held by teammate Christie Colin (York, Pa.), which stood for 13 years until Jones' standout performance today. "I have paid my dues to get this record," a smiling Jones told World Archery. "I've been flirting with it for many years. The first time I tied it was when I was 17 - so I'm really excited that today was the day."
Colin contented herself with a solid second place qualification, while compound teammate Crystal Gauvin (Dayville, Conn.) finished in 10th. With their solid shooting, the compound women's team has claimed the number one seed going into team eliminations.
Not to be outdone, the U.S. compound men's team answered with two top qualifications: Jesse Broadwater (Jennerstown, Pa.) and Braden Gellenthien (Hudson, Mass.) both delivered scores of 598, while teammate Reo Wilde (Pocatello, Idaho) hit a 594 for an 8th place ranking. The performance also qualifies the compound men in the top spot for the team event.
All eyes were on the juniors, though. "The new wave of juniors that are athletes before archers is scary," Gellenthien told World Archery. "I'm not looking forward to the future. The competition is going to really step up. I train as much as I can to stay ahead of them."
Additional highlights on the compound side included the standout performance by Emily Bee (Howell, Mich.), Lexi Keller (Omro, Wis.) and Brogan Williams (Stillwater, Okla.), who delivered not only a number one qualification but a new world record in their team semifinal, earning a shot at the gold medal.
The compound junior men's team of Bridger Deaton (Pella, Iowa), Charlie Weinstein (Gardiner, Maine) and Dillon McGeorge (Loganville, Ga.) also brought their A-game to their performance today, with a number one ranking for Deaton as well as the team. Delivering a semifinal victory versus Croatia, 236-230, the American archers secured their spot in the gold medal final.
U.S. recurve archers also put forth strong performances today, with a recurve women's team of relative newcomers qualifying tenth. Meghan Collins (High Springs, Fla.), Laura Shelton (Bethlehem, Pa.) and Rebekah McLeod (Houston, Texas) finished the day in 35th, 40th and 45th, respectively.
The recurve men's team of Olympic medalists Brady Ellison (Payson, Ariz.) and Victor Wunderle (San Antonio, Texas), as well as Olympic hopeful Jeremiah Cusick (Chula Vista, Calif.), ended their day with a 6th place team ranking. Ellison clinched the number seven seed, while Wunderle and Cusick sit in 17th and 31st, respectively, going into individual eliminations.
Alex Wifler (Crete, Ill.) had a strong performance on the recurve junior men's team, qualifying fourth in his first event on a recurve bow in nearly a year, after a hand injury in 2013 that had him competing with a compound for most of last season. Teammates Ryan Oliver (Newberry, Fla.) and Cameron Pyles (Buford, Ga.) finished 46th and 52nd, respectively, with Oliver using Wifler's bow after his own failed to arrive in Nimes.
LaNola Pritchard (Chula Vista, Calif.) also had a solid performance, with a 12th place qualification in the recurve junior women's category. Teammates Elizabeth Caughell (Kirkland, Wa.) and Paige Hill (Sugar Land, Texas) both shot 546s to rank 29th and 30th, respectively. Both junior recurve teams were eliminated in their 1/8 round matches today, but all Team USA archers will continue on to individual eliminations.
Follow live scores throughout this event at http://www.worldarchery.org. USA Archery is providing coverage throughout the week on Facebook and Twitter.
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