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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – When competing at a USA Archery event, you just never know who may be stood alongside you. It may be a novice. It may be an Olympic champion.
Take the recent Buckeye Classic in Dublin, OH, where Justin Huish reached the recurve men’s gold medal match. Huish, who would ultimately lose to Trenton Cowles in a match for the ages, won individual and team gold at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
The double gold medalist finished as the second seed after qualification, yet when it was suggested he appeared to be rolling back the years, he modestly replied, “Even a blind squirrel …,” before smiling and allowing the rest of the saying to be unsaid yet understood.
As far as Olympians are concerned, he was not a lone figure at the Darree Soccer Fields just north of Columbus. Competing in the recurve 50+ men was Glenn Meyers, a member of USA archery team at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
Among the coaches overseeing young recurve archers was Jay Barrs. Barrs won individual gold and team silver at the 1988 Olympic Games in Korea.
Even the man zipping around in a golf cart and delivering announcements as the director of scoring has an Olympic history, and it is very much a rich history. Darrell Pace claimed gold at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and again in ’84 in LA. Many feel he would have stood atop the podium in 1980 were it not for the USA’s boycott of the Games in Moscow.
The current Paralympic and newly-crowned world champion, Kevin Mather, was also competing in Dublin, just days after his success in the Czech Republic.
And when it is stated that archery is for everyone, it truly is. After all, where else do you find teenagers and a nonagenarian competing in the same sport on the same day and on the same field?
As well as all the immensely talented youth archers on show in Ohio, there was also the veteran who used to be known as Gentleman Jim, James Ploen. Ploen was born on October 13, 1927, before taking up archery in 1949. For those still working on their math, yes Mr. Ploen is edging toward his 96th birthday!
At the Buckeye Classic, he defeated a man 20 years his junior in the 1/32nd round of the recurve 50+ men eliminations before losing to the number one seed Jason Pfister.
The USA is very fortunate to have so much young talent, across all disciplines, including the 16-year-old compound aces Liko Arreola and Olivia Dean, who were last week competing at the World Archery Championships in Berlin. And then there is 19-year-old Casey Kaufhold, already an Olympian and who finished fourth in Berlin to claim the USA's first quota slot for Paris 2024.
But the path now being trod by the current generation has been paved by the many who have gone before, and who are still very much active in a variety of roles, guiding those eager to learn, pushing those keen to emulate, and helping the sport in any way they can.