Danielle Reynolds knows the feeling of winning a gold medal.
But that was halfway across the globe.
Capturing another championship but this time in her home country would mean so much more, the 18-year-old archer from Arizona said Friday at the World Archery Youth Championships (WAYC) in Yankton.
“This is our house,” said Reynolds, who won team gold at the 2013 WAYC in China. “We knew we could show the other countries what we can do.”
That’s exactly what the United States archers did Friday, as six teams – four men and two women – won their way to this weekend’s finals of the week-long international tournament.
Have the U.S. archers used the home-field advantage as a motivation?
“Definitely,” said 14-year-old Daniel O’Connor from Georgia. “We want to stand our ground; show everyone who we are.”
Mission accomplished, so far.
In total, the United States has guaranteed itself of 13 medals this weekend, by virtue of having made the bronze medal match in 13 events.
Team USA will have archers in seven team finals and three individual finals, while two archers and one team will compete for the bronze.
The WAYC team action Friday was, though, more of a showcase for the United States.
“Everybody just killed it today,” O’Connor said.
All four compound teams advanced to the gold medal match – not done very often in this tournament – and two recurve tandems made it to the finals.
“This year, recurve has been doing amazing,” Reynolds, a compound shooter, said. “As a team, we all put in a lot of practice.”
Reynolds and her two teammates on the Compound Junior Women team, which had earlier in the week set a world record for a one-day score, needed a comeback Friday to keep advancing.
The trio rallied to beat Turkey by one shot (222-221) in the semifinals, and will face Colombia in today’s (Saturday) gold medal match.
“Today was interesting. We were behind, but we thought, ‘We know our shot, let’s stick with it,’” Reynolds said. “It wasn’t a given. It came down to the last shot.”
Traditionally, the team scores are close, but another United States compound trio won its Friday matches by 10 and 4 points to reach the finals.
O’Connor, teamed with 16-year-old South Dakota native Cole Feterl (Lennox) and Dane Johnson, a 14-year-old from Indiana, advanced to the gold medal match in the Compound Cadet Men.
“My group is awesome,” Johnson said. “I feel so comfortable with them, and I can trust them with their shots.”
Like a handful of the United States archers, Chris Bee wasn’t making his first trip to Yankton this week. But oddly enough, he was among the last of his teammates to arrive in town.
Bee, an 18-year-old from Michigan, graduated from high school last Friday and got to Yankton on Sunday – later than the rest of his teammates.
Bee paired with Steven Manfull and David Houser to reach the finals of the Compound Junior Men Team.
“Representing the U.S. in the U.S. is a really cool feeling,” Bee said.
Echoing those sentiments was Johnson, who will also compete in the Compound Cadet Mixed Team gold medal match with Dahlia Crook.
“It feels great to represent the U.S.,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of pride.”
Also reaching the gold medal matches for the United States were:
* Compound Cadet Women: Crook, Cassidy Cox and Breanna Theodore
* Recurve Junior Men Team: Collin Klimitchek, Zach Garrett and Caleb Miller
* Recurve Cadet Men Team: Ryan Oliver, Geunwoo Kim and Minsoo Kim
* Compound Junior Men: David Houser
* Recurve Junior Women: Mackenzie Brown
* Recurve Junior Men: Collin Klimitchek
The United States archers have been fortunate in that their parents and other spectators were able to easily make the trip to Yankton to cheer on the shooters.
With that encouragement behind them, the archers have been able to develop an extra sense of pride, according to Bee.
“When you’re shooting, you block everything else out,” Bee said. “But at night when you’re in the hotel, that’s when you start thinking about it.”
Sure, the United States archers wouldn’t have changed their style if the WAYC was in China (like in 2013) or in Argentina (like it will be in 2017), but having the tournament in their home country makes a difference.
“We want to represent the USA, no matter where we are,” Reynolds said. “We want to do our best.”
But the fact that United States archers could capture gold in their home country adds an extra level of excitement for this weekend, according to Bee.
“I’m guessing we’ll have more people in the stands,” he said. “I bet all the volunteers will be there.
“It’s a smaller town, but it’s a really big organization with people helping out.”
As the week has elapsed, the archers have gotten more opportunities to talk with the over 500 volunteers around town, Reynolds said.
“That’s amazing,” she said. “It’s a big deal to them. I’ve never seen that, even where I’m from.”
The finals begin this morning (Saturday) with team matches at 9:30 a.m. and will then have individual matches starting at 10:40 a.m.
With the entire tournament free and open to the public, the hope from the archers is that spectators will come out to watch, much like they did during last Sunday’s opening ceremony.
“That was one of my favorite parts (in China),” Reynolds said. “You could hear the crowd.
“I hope we have the whole place here full and cheering for us.”
That would certainly raise the archers’ performance, according to O’Connor.
“That brings a comfort level to it,” he said. “That would mean the world if they (spectators) showed up.”
‘Good Experience’ For Poland
With a large and vocal support group behind her, 16-year-old Polish archer Kamila Naploszek got an up-close look Friday of one of the world’s top recurve nations: Korea.
Naploszek was on the Recurve Cadet Women team that lost to Korea in the quarterfinals.
Poland was far from alone in losing to the Koreans, though. Korea, long known for its strength in recurve archer, qualified six teams to the recurve gold medal matches this weekend.
“It’s the best archery here,” Naploszek said. “It’s good to know what other people can shoot and ‘where am I in this.’”
Poland sent 12 archers to the WAYC in Yankton, and although no Polish archers advanced to this weekend’s finals, there’s plenty they can take back home with them.
“It’s very good experience,” said Magdalena Smialkowska, an 18-year-old from Poland. “I love when we can see (Korea) shoot; they’re really good.
“We can learn about how they do it and what they do.”
Regardless of the tournament they shoot at, Polish archers can use the experience they got this week in Yankton.
“The stress and everything was very good for me,” Smialkowska said.
In Naploszek’s case, this week was her first WAYC, and her assessment was positive when asked Friday.
“It’s the best organization for a tournament,” she said. “The previous ones were not as good. This is my first time here, and I have big emotions. I really like it.”
Long Travel For Guatemala
As Jose Andres Del Cid Carrillo tested out a few bows on display Friday at the Easton Yankton Archery Complex, it perhaps reminded the 16-year-old from Guatemala of traveling with such equipment.
One of Guatemalan archers in Yankton this week, Del Cid Carrillo said despite the lengthy travel – 16 hours in all – to reach the WAYC, he has enjoyed his stay.
“I like it here,” he said. “It’s very calm; very secure.
“All these volunteers, you don’t always see that. This is the first one (tournament) I’ve seen with this much help.”
The Guatemalan team had flights from their home country to Houston, to Denver (where the team had to wait six hours) and then to Sioux Falls, followed by a bus trip to Yankton.
Then came the varying extremes of South Dakota weather: From 90-plus degrees early in the week to rainy and cold conditions Thursday.
“I don’t like the weather, (Thursday) was difficult,” Del Cid Carrillo said. “The wind was hurting me. I usually don’t shoot in the rain.
“But it’s good experience.”