Denise Parker, Utah's 15-year-old Olympic archer, had no indication before the weekend started that she was about to break her first world record - and seven national records as well.
After all, she'd spent much of the winter as a ninth-grader from Bingham Middle School playing on a high-school sophomore basketball team, and the basketball coach demanded practice 21/2 hours a day, six days a week. She shot arrows only about six hours a week until recently.This weekend at the Salt Palace, as Salt Lake City played host for the first time to the Western Regional of the U.S. National Indoor Archery Championships, Parker was just determined to do better than she had a couple of weeks ago in her first indoor meet this season, at Las Vegas. There she lost the lead on her last three arrows and finished second to Olympic alternate Debbie Ochs of Michigan.
This weekend, Parker beat Ochs to win the women's division of the regional, 1,169-1,117.
"I needed this," said Parker. "I didn't shoot very well in Las Vegas."
In fact, Parker beat not only Ochs but all the men in the regional, too, and that included 1988 Olympic gold medalist Jay Barrs of Arizona, two-time Olympic team member Rick McKinney of Arizona and two-time Olympian and 1988 Olympic alternate Ed Eliason (1,167) of Stansbury Park, who won the men's competition over Barrs (1,162) and McKinney (1,154).
Sixty arrows are shot by each archer each day, from 25 meters in FITA II (Saturday) competition and from 18 meters at a smaller target in FITA I (Sunday). Each arrow is worth up to 10 points, depending upon where it hits the target. Men and women don't compete against each other, but scores are comparable.
Parker was a point off the women's world indoor record in FITA II (25 meters) Saturday, shooting 582, but she bettered the indoor world record for 18 meters by four Sunday with 587. The old mark was 583.
It will take a while for the record to be certified.
The West Region is one of four held over the weekend; top scorers in all categories from all regions combined will be national champions - there is no national indoor meet. Meet organizer Larry Smith said Utah has bid to host all four regionals and make a true national tournament next year. The West Region is usually contested at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., but that was booked, and the meet was brought to the Salt Palace through efforts of the local club, Salt Palace and Utah Sports Foundation.
"It's kind of neat having it at home and to be shooting for the national championship and to get the world record here," said Parker, who admitted that comfortable surroundings helped her.
As she was competing Sunday morning, Parker had a hunch she was coming close to the record. "I didn't know exactly - I didn't want to," she said.
Parker said the world record is probably her favorite accomplishment of the weekend, "but I still want the national record.
"Can I have both?" she laughed.
Denise broke seven national records this weekend: in the Junior Olympic competition, she scored 592 to break her own national mark of 590. In women's competition, her 582 25-meter score beat the old national record of 576; at 18 meters, her 587 world record beat the national mark of 578; and in the women's aggregate - which counts as a national record but apparently not in world records - her 1,169 beat the old mark of 1,150.
Parker also shot in the intermediate regional, wanting as much competition experience as possible. She broke all three national intermediate records - with 580 at 25 meters to better the old 561 record, 581 (556) at 18 meters and 1,161 (1,117) total.
Valerie Parker, her mother, said Saturday was the first time Denise has ever come close to a world record, and now the Earl Parker family of South Jordan hopes Denise can keep it going into the outdoor season in the summer. "Outdoors is where it's at," Valerie said. "Boy, it would really be nice to get an outdoor record, but I don't know if she's capable of that yet."
As she grows, Parker will be able to handle bows with stronger pull to them - an advantage outdoors where wind and weather affect arrows.
The regional competition was followed Sunday by the Salt Palace Classic, an open tourney for archers choosing to shoot with either compound or recurve bows and special sites; only recurves are allowed in the regional.