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The Easton Newberry Sports Complex, with its wide, flat field and warm, calm Florida weather was a fitting spot for the inaugural Gator Cup. Archers, undaunted by the time of year, were treated to clear skies throughout the weekend, and a slight breeze just tricky enough to keep archers guessing as they enjoyed friendly competition and vied for spots on the Junior and Senior U.S. Archery Teams in the year's final selection event.
Following official practice on Saturday morning, the event officially kicked off with a 70 meter, 72 arrow qualification round, with cadet archers shooting at 60 meters. Olympic Team members Brady Ellison and Khatuna Lorig were in top form during the event, starting out in the lead of their categories and remaining at the top throughout the qualification round. By the half, it was an Olympic top-three in the men's recurve; Ellison led with a 338, followed by Vic Wunderle, shooting a 327, and Butch Johnson with a 327. On the women's side, Lorig held first for her category with a 325; Miranda Leek took the second position with a 317, and Resident Athlete Kristin Braun was in third with a 305.
This event was well-attended by compound archers, who were led in the compound men's category by reigning World Champion Reo Wilde, shooting a 353. Wilde was followed by Rodger Willett, Jr. with a 352, and Braden Gellenthien, shooting a 349. For the women, Jamie Van Natta climbed slowly to the top of her group to hold first after the half with a 339; Erika Anschutz, currently ranked second in the world, was in second place with the same score. Christie Colin, shooting a 336, held third.
The qualification round concluded with Ellison remaining at the top of the recurve men's category, shooting a 676 for the round. Resident Athlete and National Champion Jake Kaminski qualified second with a 656; Johnson held on to the third place position, finishing with a 645. In the women's group, Lorig also remained at the top of her respective category, qualifying first with a 639; Leek followed in second with a 633, and Braun rounded out the top three with a 611.
In the compound men's category, Willett shot well enough in the second half to claim the top position, qualifying first with a 700; Wilde, shooting the same score but fewer X's, took second place with the same score. Gellenthien rounded out the group, shooting a 695 to finish in third. For the women, Van Natta retained her first place position to finish with a 676; she was followed by Anschutz, shooting a 672, and Colin, with a 668.
For the juniors, Matthew Zumbo qualified first in the junior recurve men's category; he was followed by recent Pan Am Championships medalist Daniel McLaughlin, who shot a 624, and Jeremiah Cusick, with a 618. For the junior women, fellow Pan Am Championships medalist Kiley Larrick qualified first, shooting a 574; she was followed by Shannon Ostling with a 539, and Junior Dream Team member Mackenzie Brown with a 504. On the compound side, Andrew Everett qualified first for the junior men, shooting a 670; Evan Scudner, shooting a 662, finished second, while Ty Pruitte ended in third with a 626, For the women, Kailey Johnston qualified first with a 673; Sarah Lance held the second place position with a 668; they were followed by Mackenzie Kieborz, qualifying third with a 633.
Cadet archers, who competed only in the qualifying round, were led by Chris Luman in the cadet recurve men's category, who shot a 606; Sean McLaughlin, also shooting a 606, qualified second, while Jean-Luc Espinet qualified third with a 567. For the women, Cara Henslin led the group with a 604; Anna Miscione, scoring a 594, qualified second, while Hunter Jackson ended the day in third with a 587. In the compound group, Bridger Deaton won the cadet compound men's category with a 678; Aaron Groce took second with a 651. Gabrielle Cyr, the sole cadet female compound competitor, finished the day with a 637. The event was also host to three crossbow archers; William Pimm, the sole male shooter, finished with a 636, while Michelle O'Donnell shot a 663 to qualify first for the women, followed by Colleen Devier, finishing in second with a 615.
Team and mixed team rounds were also offered to archers on Saturday, in which many competed in the hopes of winning the cash prizes offered, including $700 to the first-place team in the team event. For the recurve men, the Resident Athlete team of Jacob Wukie, Nick Kale and Joe Fanchin once again took top honors, while on the women's side, fellow Resident Athletes Kristin Braun, Heather Koehl and Khatuna Lorig also finished on top. For the compound men, the team of Reo and Logan Wilde, along with Keith Trail, finished first; they were joined on the podium by the women's team of Jamie Van Natta, Kailey Johnston and Tristan Skarvan. For the mixed-team event, Jake Kaminski was joined by Lorig to secure a win on the recurve side; Sarah Lance and Darrin Christenberry took top honors in the compound group.
Sunday dawned clear and calm as archers took to the field to begin the day's Olympic Rounds, which would narrow the field to just three medalists in each category. Several exciting matches kept spectators on the edges of their seats, as many ties had to be resolved throughout the day. By the semifinals, just four archers remained in each category. For the recurve men, both Ellison and Kaminski advanced to the gold medal match after shutout victories against their opponents, Wukie and Johnson, respectively. In the women's group, Lorig and Leek advanced to the gold match, leaving Braun and fellow Resident Athlete Heather Koehl to compete for the bronze. Compound archers Reo Wilde and Gellenthien both defeated their opponents, facing each other in the gold medal match, while Willett and Ben Cleland would shoot for bronze, while on the women's side, Johnston and Colin advanced to the gold medal match after decisive victories in the semifinals, leaving Sally Seipp and Anschutz to compete for the bronze.
In a give-and-take match, Wukie and Johnson continued to best one another and tie, with Wukie eventually pulling ahead of Johnson by two set points to win the bronze medal. On the other side of the field, Braun had a more decisive victory over opponent Koehl, earning six set points to clinch the bronze medal in a shutout. For their match, Willett and Gellenthien frequently tied one another and eventually went to a single-arrow shoot-off, with both archers shooting "X's." Following a caliper measurement, Gellenthien claimed the bronze. On the women's side, the bronze match between Seipp and Anschutz was also closely contested, with an eventual 5-5 tie being resolved by a ten from Anschutz, who won the bronze.
The gold medal matches were no less exciting; while Ellison and Kaminski competed for four ends, Ellison took gold after a four set-point victory, 6-2, giving Kaminski the silver. Lorig also won her gold medal with the same 6-2 score against Leek, who claimed the silver. Compound archers Wilde and Cleland spectators excited as they battled it out, tying the first set, and then having a give-and take for four more sets, with Wilde eventually claiming a 6-4 gold medal victory over Cleland. The compound women also competed for five sets, keeping spectators excited as Johnston eventually succeeded in winning the gold after a 7-3 victory over silver medalist Colin.
Complete results from the Gator Cup may be viewed by clicking here.
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