Phoenix, Arizona – It’s an Olympic year, and every archer – recurve and compound – brought their A-game to the field at the AAE Arizona Cup yesterday, determined to open this pivotal 2012 outdoor season the right way. Fittingly, qualification rounds kicked off on March 23 – the same day that “The Hunger Games” opened in theaters across the United States.

Olympians, Olympic hopefuls and World Champions took to the range at the Ben Avery Shooting Facility for a double 72 arrow qualification round featuring some of the world’s top talent. Superstars such as number one world ranked archer Brady Ellison (AZ), multi-time World Champion Reo Wilde (ID), world record holder Jamie Van Natta (OH), top ranked British para archer Danielle Brown, and Olympian Aida Roman (MEX) all qualified number one in their categories, proving that this season will feature competition as hot as the sun over the Sonoran desert.

With a light to moderate breeze throughout the day, the competition was interesting from the start, with lots of movement throughout all categories. The AAE Arizona Cup, the first USAT Qualifier Series Event of 2012, is also a World Ranking Event, and there was a distinctly global look and feel to the shooting line, which boasted archers from the U.S. as well as Great Britain, Colombia, Argentina, Ireland, Denmark, Venezuela, Slovenia, Canada, and several states within Mexico as well as the Mexican national team.

Ellison took the lead early on in the men’s recurve, and didn’t look back, ending with a 1337, though there was movement within the rest of the pack. Olympic hopeful Jacob Wukie (OH) moved up the rankings to finish second with 1327, while Canada’s Crispin Duenas held in the top three for most of the day, finishing third with 1322.

“I was happy with the second half,” Wukie noted when interviewed at the end of shooting. “Starting out, I would have liked to have done a little better; I’ve been working on some things that I ws really struggling with yesterday, so that was encouraging.” When asked what he focuses his mental training on when preparing for tournaments, he noted: “I just try to have a good understanding of what my ability is, and how my shot is feeling. Based on that, I have an expectation, and I don’t try to shoot a score that’s above what I know I can do. In order to shoot a ten, I know I can’t control my shot well enough to shoot a ten every time, so I may let my sight float 9.5 and concentrate on shooting a really strong shot.”

On the women’s side, it was Mexico’s Roman who finally climbed atop the category, qualifying number one with 1328. She was followed closely by teammate Alejandra Valencia with her score of 1300, displaying the prowess of the Mexican women’s recurve team. Team USA’s Jennifer Nichols (TX) was the top American qualifier, hitting a 1294.

Van Natta was the top qualifying compound woman, and led the pack her score of 1376. Great Britain’s Brown, one of the world’s top para archers, was just behind her in second, scoring a 1366, while Mexico’s Linda Ochoa took the third spot with her score of 1358.

When interviewed, Brown credited her training in part for her success: “I’ve moved fifteen minutes away from our national training center so I can train full time,” Brown explained. When asked about the inevitable comparisons of her scores to those of the able-bodied women, she commented: “I aim to do my best, I’m comparing myself against myself and against my personal best. That’s what I’m aiming to beat, rather than other people. I don’t want to be complacent, so I’m working really, really hard. Everyone going to 2012 wants a gold medal, and just because I’ve done well in the past doesnt mean I’m going to do well again.”

For the compound men, it was an a Wilde contest, with brothers Reo and Logan (UT) neck and neck for much of the day, though Jesse Broadwater (PA) shot well enough to end the day in second, tying Reo Wilde’s score with a 1406 but shooting 111 tens to Wilde’s 112. For Logan Wilde, it was just one point less to end the day in third with 1405.

Awards were presented for the qualification rounds in the four primary categories, as well as junior and cadet recurve and compound, and all para categories in which there were competitors. Other archers who topped their respective categories in the qualification rounds included John Stubbs (GBR) for compound para open men; Eric Bennett (AZ) for recurve para standing men; Christopher and Emily Bee (MI)  in the compound cadet groups; Riley Whiting (UT) for compound junior men; Paige Pearce (CA) for compound junior women; Lee Walmsley (GBR) for recurve para standing women; Paul Browne (GBR) for recurve para W2 men; Jenny Han (CA) for recurve cadet women; Osvaldo Gurrola (MEX) for recurve cadet men; Mackenzie Brown (TX) for recurve junior women; and Sean McLaughlin (OH) for recurve junior men.

The competition continues today (Saturday) with open and national team rounds, and concludes Sunday with head-to-head elimination round match play to determine the winners of this World Ranking Event.

Thanks to a grant from the Easton Foundations, the winners of the four major categories (male and female recurve and compound) will also receive cash prizes. For scores and complete event information, visit http://www.ianseo.net/Details.php?toId=252; follow “usaarchery” on Twitter and like “USA Archery” on Facebookfor updates throughout the event.

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