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Apr 20, 2005, 13:24

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4 Newcomers Head to ESPN Great Outdoor Games

(photo) The 2005 Pittsburg qualifiers for the ESPN Great Outdoor Games are, from upper left, moving clockwise, Josh Deering, Mark Wagner, Karen Demaris and Bradley Gohlke.

A field of 16 archers set for the July 7-10 event in Orlando Florida, which will pit four first-time qualifiers against 12 veterans of previous ESPN Games.

Josh Deering of Michigan, left, and Mark Wagner of Iowa square off for the championship of the Eliminator Qualifier in Pittsburgh, Pa., the third and final qualifying round for the 2005 ESPN Great Outdoor Games. Deering prevailed in the matchup, claiming first place, 24-18.

Josh Deering of Maple City, Mich., took first place in last weekend?s third and final ?Eliminator Qualifier? archery event at Pittsburgh, Pa., thus earning a trip to Orlando with three other first-time qualifiers to compete July 7-10 at the sixth annual ESPN Great Outdoor Games presented by Dodge.

The Pittsburgh competition, held April 14-16, was conducted by ArrowSport, the Archery Trade Association?s nonprofit foundation, and the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) in conjunction with its WAF Archery Classic. The Classic was the third leg of the World Archery Festival?s ?3 Star Tour.? The Eliminator event was taped by ESPN television crews and will be telecast May 12 and 15 on ESPN2 as part of the network?s Target Sports program, which includes rifle and shotgun rounds for the Games.

The Eliminator Qualifier finals on April 16 featured the top 16 archers from the first two days of preliminary competition. The finalists competed in head-to-head, single-elimination rounds to determine which four would advance to the Great Outdoor Games. Qualifying along with Deering were first-time GOG archers Mark Wagner of Iowa, who finished second in the championship round to Deering; Bradley Gohlke of Houston, who defeated Chris Berry of Missouri to win third place; and Karen Demaris of Oregon, who finished highest among the women. The Great Outdoor Games does not have men?s and women?s divisions in archery, so the top-scoring woman at each Eliminator Qualifier wins the fourth berth. Demaris and Joella Bates of Tennessee both qualified for the final 16, but Demaris placed higher in the finals, earning the berth.

The ESPN Great Outdoor Games, now in their sixth year, will be held at the Disney Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando. The archery event features 16 shooters, 12 of whom earned berths through the three Eliminator Qualifiers. The other four spots are held by the top finishers from the 2004 Games: gold medalist Randy Hendrix of North Carolina, silver medalist Wayne Endicott of Oregon, bronze medalist Randy Ulmer of Arizona, and fourth-place finisher Jackie Caudle of Alabama.

The four archers qualifying at the first 2005 Eliminator Qualifier, held Feb. 24-26 during the NFAA?s World Archery Festival in Las Vegas, were Keith Brown, North Carolina, first place; and Mike Slinkard, Oregon; Gerald Decker, Pennsylvania; and Ginger Hopwood, Georgia.

The four archers qualifying at the second 2005 Eliminator Qualifier, held March 17-19 during the NFAA?s Indoor National Championships in Louisville, Ky., were Rod White of Iowa, first place; and Darren Collins, Kansas; Tim Gillingham, Utah; and Cindy Decker, Pennsylvania.

The archery competition at the Great Outdoor Games is a joint venture between ESPN, the NFAA and ArrowSport. The event is dubbed the ?Eliminator? because of its fast-paced, single-elimination format.

Deering, 25, had never before shot the Eliminator round, but was eager to try it after watching the Great Outdoor Games on ESPN several times. He and his friend, Brian Clarke, drove 8-1/2 hours from their homes in northern Michigan to compete at Pittsburgh. After qualifying for the finals, they faced each other in the first round, which Deering won, 33-24.

?I didn?t expect to do this well, and I certainly didn?t expect to win,? Deering said. ?I was a little intimidated after watching the event at home on TV and video, but Brian talked me into going. I had some trouble at first with the moving target, but got it figured out in the preliminary rounds. I shot my worst round in the championship match, probably because I was so excited, knowing I had already qualified for the Great Outdoor Games.?

Although Pittsburgh?s Eliminator Qualifier sent four newcomers to the Games, it wasn?t because they faced an inexperienced crowd. The 16 finalists included five Great Outdoor Games veterans: Berry, Donald Bishop of North Carolina, Jeff Johnston of Wisconsin, Marty Chapman of North Carolina, and Wade Gautreaux of Ohio.

The Eliminator duels during the three Qualifiers and Great Outdoor Games feature four shooting stations:

— William Tell: In this two-shot station, archers shoot a 3-inch apple-shaped target off a base at 20 yards. They have five seconds to shoot the first apple and three seconds for the second. Each hit scores 3 points.

— The Bermuda Triangle: This station features two 25-yard shots at a large, wedge-shaped moving triangle with 4- and 6-inch circles, scoring 6 and 3 points, respectively. Both archers shoot one arrow as the target moves left to right, and then reload and shoot again as the target returns right to left. The sequence lasts 20 seconds.

— Risk: This 40-yard station gives competitors 30 seconds to shoot one of four disks of 2-, 3-, 4- or 6-inch diameter, worth 12, 9, 6 and 3 points, respectively. The archer leading after the first two stations must shoot first, and archers must call their shot before drawing their bow. If they hit a target they didn?t call, the shot doesn?t count.

— Speed Challenge: This 25-yard shot features four 4-inch disks, with the fourth dropping a metal arm to stop the clock when it?s struck. Whoever hits all four disks first wins. Each disk is worth three points, with the winner earning an additional three points. The entire match often comes down to this final event, which is reshot if a round ends in a tie.

A perfect round scores 45 points. At the Pittsburgh qualifier, Deering shot the day?s second-highest score three times, 33 points, and had the best overall average, 30.75. Wagner, who also tried qualifying at Las Vegas and Louisville, made it on his third attempt by posting the day?s best round, 36, and averaging 28.5 points. Gohlke started hot with a 33 and won the third-place matchup with a 30 to finish with an average of 27.

* ATA photos by Greg Nielsen 

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