Here comes the sun! The first major North American tournament of the year didn’t disappoint. Crystal Gauvin was there.
ARIZONA CUP 2018
What is it?
The Arizona Cup is held every year near Phoenix, Arizona, at the beginning of April. It is usually the first major outdoor tournament of the year in the USA. 2019 will see the 30th anniversary of the tournament.
Can I join in?
Yes you can! Fees start at $180. Recurves and compounds are welcome and there are cadet, masters & senior categories with associated prizes. You will need to be a member of USA Archery, although if you are already a member of a WA affiliated organisation you can obtain temporary membership. The tournament – and local accommodation – have been known to sell out, so get your application for 2019 in early.
Tell me a fact
Brady Ellison won the recurve division again for the first time in four years, bringing his total wins here to seven – the most of anyone in the history of the competition.
Every year the United States begins their outdoor season with the Arizona Cup, and this year was no different. In past years, this event has been a world ranking event, with shooters from all over the world using it as a warmup for the first World Cup of the year. Although the AZ Cup was not a world ranking event this year, there still were individuals from roughly ten countries present.
Arizona is known for hot temperatures, intense sun, and unpredictable winds, and this year was no different. In fact, when one archer from the northern part of the US was asked about his experience at the event, he answered “It’s too hot. It’s too windy. It’s too early in the season.”
This year’s event had a very different schedule than past years, so recurve women and compound men shot their qualification round Friday afternoon, following official practice. Friday was warm, but temperatures were a little milder (89°F/32°C) then they typically are this time of year in the desert. Official practice was pretty empty, with many archers choosing to skip practice to save their energy and stay in the air conditioning to be fresh for the afternoon qualification session.
On the compound men’s side of the field, there were nine men who shot a 700 or higher, with the Netherlands’ Mike Schloesser coming out on top after shooting a pair of 354s (708). After finishing, Mike made the comment that “it was windy and challenging, but I had some fun shooting and learned a lot.” Also, for those paying close attention, famed recurve shooter Brady Ellison returned to his compound roots at this event, qualifying in 13th with a 696 and a 352 second half.
On the women’s recurve side, Mackenzie Brown qualified in the top spot (635), with Khatuna Lorig just one point behind. The field did have some new names, with the 14-year-old Casey Kaufhold making her 70m debut, and Ana Umer of Slovenia and Paola Bass of Colombia also making the trip to this year’s event.
Paola has been missing from the international scene after taking some time off. “I just started back up again with my recurve in November. I had some luck at Colombia’s World Cup trials, so I’ll be going to some World Cups this year. I am here to try to re-learn all the things I’ve forgotten.” she said.
Saturday morning was the conclusion of the women’s recurve and men’s compound event, with elimination rounds. The morning started with some clouds in the sky, but as those burned off the sun grew in intensity and the temperatures skyrocketed. Winds weren’t quite as strong as the day before, early on, but they were changing direction frequently, forcing archers to pay attention and make quick shots before the wind flags pointed in the opposite direction.
Both sides of the field saw the top two ranked archers from qualification advancing to the gold medal match. Mike Schloesser dropped only two points to easily beat Reo Wilde 148-144, and Jesse Clayton, who upset Braden Gellenthien in the quarter finals, defeated Matt Sullivan to take home the bronze. Reo, who has been very successful at the AZ Cup, had this to say about the 2018 edition, “I felt good and my bow shot great. It’s always good to go head to head against Mike, should be a great season!” For the recurve women, Mackenzie defeated Khatuna to win the event, and Casey beat Ana to earn bronze, both winning in straight sets 6-0.
Practice was opened for the afternoon session during the mornings 1/8th round, so recurve men and compound women could get ready for their qualification sessions. Temperatures continued to rise, hitting around 94°F (35°C). Winds, on the other hand, didn’t increase too much but remained unpredictable with Brady commenting that he had to “aim left black one arrow and right eight for the next.” That didn’t seem to slow him down (or the fact that he had just shot four matches that morning with his compound), as he topped the men’s recurve qualification by 16 points. The women’s compound division had Toja Ellison of Slovenia qualify in first, with the USA’s Robyn Repp and Tanja Jensen of Denmark tied for second.
Lexi Keller, who qualified in 7th, is from the northern part of the US and mentioned, “It was a little bit more difficult coming into Arizona Cup this year, compared to other years, as I was only able to have one day of outdoor practice before the tournament (we still have snow in Wisconsin). But even knowing I might not be as prepared as I would have liked to be, I knew I trusted my equipment, and I knew I trusted my own ability to judge wind, so I just had to take what I had into this tournament.” As a particularly late winter with heavy snow pummelled many states this year, there were multiple archers who expressed this same sentiment and felt frustrated with their ability to accurately prepare for this event.
Sunday morning was the final day of competition, with men’s recurve and women’s compound shooting their elimination rounds to crown a winner. This was the warmest of the three days, and many archers were feeling the pain after getting sun burns the day before. Much like the previous morning, the gold medal matches were shot by those shooting the highest two scores during qualification in both divisions.
In recurve men, Brady shot his final against Matthew Nofel, and won without incident, 6-0. The bronze medal match was a tight battle between the USA’s Jack Williams (qualified 3rd) and Adam Heidt (5th). After losing the first set, Jack increased his brace height by ½ inch (1.27cm) and took his own advice for whenever you are behind, “just shoot your best and you can’t lose.” That seemed to work, as he ended up winning the bronze medal, 6-4.
The women’s compound medal matches looked more like an international event than a USA Archery ranking event with Tanja defeating Toja to win gold, and Linda Ochoa-Anderson of Mexico winning bronze against Lexi Keller, the lone American remaining. Although Tanja lives in Denmark, which has not yet fully thawed out from the winter, she has already won two outdoor 3D events in the USA. “I had a great start to the outdoor season, and I feel confident going to China for the first World Cup in two weeks! Starting my outdoor season with two ASAs has been a great decision, as it has taught me to focus on every single arrow you shoot.”
In the end there were no snake bites, only one trip to the E.R., and even a few personal bests. Most shooters came away with something to work on this month, with many hoping to climb the rankings for their chance to make next year’s US World Cup team.
ARIZONA CUP 2018 Selected medallists
- Brady Ellison
- Matthew Nofel
- Jack Williams
- Mackenzie Brown
- Khatuna Lorig
- Casey Kaufhold
- Mike Schloesser
- Reo Wilde
- Jesse Clayton
- Tanja Jensen
- Toja Ellison
- Linda Ochoa-Anderson