Denise Parker, the 14-year-old archer from South Jordan, shot her way to first place in Monday morning's women's competition at the National Archery Association Olympic Team Trials.
And she did it despite a shoulder problem that has limited her practice time the last 10 days.Parker trailed Debra Ochs, Howell, Mich., by one point - 619 to 618 - after Sunday's opening competition. Shooting with more confidence on Monday, Parker led Ochs by one point after the first end (Ethree arrows). At the end of the 30 meter event, Parker led Ochs by 12 points - 936 to 924.
More competition was to take place Monday afternoon.
Three other Utahns are also competing for the six spots on the Olympic team - three for men and three for women. Ed Eliason of Stansbury Park was fifth after Sunday's men's competition. Guy Bowden of Magna, shooting in his first Olympic Trials, was 16th. Cindy Becker of Salt Lake City, shooting in her second Trials, was 13th.
No one burned the targets up Sunday. The consensus was that scores were low because of the pressure associated with making the Olympic team. Many felt scores should be about 20 points per archer higher.
The pressure to make the Olympic team was there on every shot. Leaders were, naturally, happy to have the better scores, but were not necessarily comfortable with their shooting. The practice range late Sunday was almost as crowded as the competition lines had been earlier.
Utahns, it would seem, handled the pressure as well as any. Shooting to make the first cut after Monday, from 212 to 48 (24 men and 24 women), the four Utah archers were comfortably in position to make the cut.
Parker shot 72 arrows over the two long distances and finished in a solid second, only one point behind leader Ochs. Katie Blum of Cincinnati, Ohio, was third with 605.
Becker was in 13th after Sunday's competition with 591. She was fifth at the Trials four years ago.
Eliason, a member of two previous Olympic teams, 1964 and 1980, totaled 618 for his fifth-place total and Bowden had 592 for his 16th place total. Leading the men's race was Jay Barrs of Mesa, Ariz., with 622.
Even though there were over 200 archers drawing bow strings on Sunday, attention was noticeably on lane 49 where Parker was shooting. Along with questions about her shooting, and her scores, came a few from close friends about her shoulder.
A little over a week ago a sore shoulder was diagnosed as tendonitis. Her two-a-day practices stopped. The week leading up to this event she shot only three times. Adding still more pressure was the fact that she had to do well here to make the Olympic team, her No. 1 goal. As a reminder, she writes it down every morning.
(Her No. 2 goal was to become the first woman archer to ever break 1,300 points in a shoot. She shot a 1,301 last month in Harrisonburg, Va.) She started off Sunday, as did almost everyone, slightly off target. Shooting in groups of three, one arrow consistently scored low, which for Parker was a seven or eight instead of a nine or a perfect 10.
In the afternoon, at the shorter 60 meters, the pattern continued. After 18 arrows Parker was six points out of first and after 24 arrows, she was seven points out. The last two ends (groups of six arrows) were her best of the day and she finished only one point down, even though she said it was toward the end that her shoulder began to bother her the most.
Away from the line, sitting under a shelter holding a bag of ice to her left shoulder, she admitted she didn't shoot well. For some reason, she said, the arrows weren't "going in."
"Instead of 10s," she said, "I was getting eights and nines. I don't know why. I could feel the pressure, though. I tried to focus in my mind that I was back home, in my backyard shooting, to help me relax, but it was hard."
Eliason, too, said he felt the pressure and agreed it was likely responsible for the low scores on opening day. Starting out in 14th after six arrows, he shot better near the end and finished the 90 meters tied for fifth, his same standing after the 70 meter shoot.
Becker, too, said she didn't shoot her best. She was 11th after the 70 meters on what she called "up and down" shooting, but did shoot well enough early in the 60 meters to get as high as seventh.
Bowden, it turned out, was one of the few bowmen shooting well on the first day. His previous high, he said, was a 570, "so I fell very good about this. I think a lot of it was getting mentally ready for this back at home. My coach (Eliason) helped me there."
If Parker, who has been shooting for only four years, were to make the team, she would be the youngest archer ever to do so.