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CHULA VISTA, California - The weather was hot, but the scores were hotter. Compound archers hoping the make the World Archery Championships in Copenhagen next month - and archers shooting for berths to the World Archery Para Championships in Germany this August - weren't leaving anything to chance.
The World Archery Para Championships team members have a tall order: compete at the Parapan Am Games in Toronto, AND the World Archery Para Championships in Germany, hoping in both cases to clinch Paralympic quota spots for Rio 2016.
" Very lucky and happy to have come in first after a very long weekend of ?#archery for ?#socalshowdown and US Para World Team Trials," noted Lee Ford (Perry, Georgia) in a Facebook post. "Lots of work went into this, no one ever wins alone. I want to thank my family, especially [my husband and daughter] and all my sponsors who make it a lot easier to succeed!"
The Para squad will be a large one, thanks to the United States seeing increased depth of field in several competitive divisions.
Ford will shoot in the recurve women's open category alongside teammates Natalie Wells (Manteca, California) and Kinga Kiss-Johnson (McCormick, South Carolina). Ford is a 2012 Paralympian, while Wells has shot competitively for many years, and Kiss-Johnson - a soldier who was wounded in Afghanistan - is a relative newcomer on the international scene.
Paralympic gold medalist Jeff Fabry (Lemoore, California), along with Paralympians - and U.S. Veterans - Jerry Shields (Gainesville, Florida) and Chuck Lear (Lees Summit, Missouri), will comprise a strong W1 men's team. They'll be joined by fellow Veteran Lia Coryell (LaCrosse, Wisconsin), who will be Team USA's sole entry in the W1 women's category.
The recurve men's open category will see veteran Eric Bennett (Surprise, Arizona) return to the international stage after a strong individual finish at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He'll join teammates Michael Lukow - a U.S. Army veteran from Salt Lake City, Utah - and Timothy Palumbo (Buffalo, New York), both of whom have proven themselves as strong contenders in the recurve division.
The compound division will see three entries in the women's category - three proud United States Veterans - including 2013 World Archery Para Championships silver medalist Martha Chavez (Lemoore, California), "MouthTab Chick" Samantha Tucker (Colorado Springs, Colorado) and newcomer Kiran Cupeles (Carolina, Puerto Rico).
And the compound men's squad will benefit from strong experience - and a fresh perspective. The team will be anchored by 2012 Paralympic silver medalist Matt Stutzman (Salt Lake City, Utah), and will feature U.S. Veteran Andre Shelby (Jacksonville, Florida), along with Ben Thompson (Ladson, South Carolina).
The competition wasn't any less tough during the conclusion of today's compound competition - the second stage of the U.S. Team Trials for the World Archery Championships. Archers began their Team Trials process in April, when the recurve team was named, and continued through today, following a grueling Team Trials process designed to select the strongest possible team for a World Archery Championships that's guaranteed to be competitive.
"After a third place finish yesterday, I finished our World Championships trials in first place! That means I get to represent #TeamUSA in Denmark next month!" posted an excited Crystal Gauvin (Dayville, Connecticut), who topped the compound women's Team Trials rankings. She'll be joined in Denmark by veteran competitor Jamie Van Natta (Toledo, Ohio) - a multi-time World Championships medalist - and team Alternate Lexi Keller (Omro, Wisconsin). Paige Pearce, the multi-time World Archery Youth Champion who clinched the third team spot, has announced that she'll decline her spot to the World Championships; Keller will attend in her place.
On the men's side, Braden Gellenthien (Hudson, Massachusetts) led the field, finishing atop a strong group of competitors. Gellenthien, a World Cup Final champion and World Championships medalist, will be joined by Reo Wilde (Pocatello, Idaho). Wilde, a fiercely talented teammate and equally tough competitor, is also a multi-time World Championships medalist and World Cup Final champion. Together, they'll anchor a team that's rounded out by Alex Wifler (Crete, Illinois), this year's Vegas Champion and a World Archery Youth Championships medalist. Steve Anderson (Salt Lake City, Utah) is the team Alternate.
For updates on Team USA, follow USA Archery on Facebook and Twitter. Next up for many of these talented archers: the U.S. National Target Championships and U.S. Open, part of the "Outdoor Nationals," begin July 1 in Decatur, Alabama.
Congratulations to all of the newly selected team members!
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