Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Road to Athens begins in Mason

Top U.S. archers take aim today

By Colleen Kane
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The top 100-plus archers in the country come to Mason this week, all aiming for one thing - a trip to Athens in August to represent the United States in the Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic Archery Trials begin today at Heritage Oak Park with the opening ceremonies at 8 a.m. A double qualifying round will follow, where archers will shoot a total of 144 arrows to make the top 16 cut. Round Robin matches will take place the rest of the week to further whittle the field.

On Saturday, the top three male and female archers will be named to the U.S. Olympic team. An alternate for each team will also be named.

Locals Jason McKittrick, of Holton, Ind., and Chris Shull, of Columbus, will compete for a spot on the men's team alongside at least eight former Olympians, including former gold medal winners Butch Johnson, Rod White, Justin Huish and Jay Barrs. Johnson is ranked at the top of the group. Vic Wunderle enters ranked second, and Shull and McKittrick are ranked third and fourth.

"You can't put your finger on (who will qualify) yet," Cincinnati's two-time gold medal winner Darrell Pace said. "You never know who's going to peak at the right time."

McKittrick, the 2000 Olympic alternate, hopes he can overcome recent struggles he's had to qualify for his first true spot on the Olympic team.

"I wish (my chances) were really, really good. I've struggled this year quite a bit," McKittrick said. "I tried to make improvements, and I should have just left it alone. ... I've just been shooting, shooting, shooting."

On the women's side, 20-year-old Jennifer Nichols is the top-ranked archer. She will be joined by former Olympians Karen Scavotto and Janet Dykman.

The men hope to assemble a team that can repeat its performance in the 1996 Olympics, when the U.S. took home both the individual (Huish) and team golds. The women will try to qualify for a team looking for its first medal since a bronze in 1988.

Spectators will get a chance to try their own hand at archery in an interactive "fun zone." Concessions and merchandise vendors will be available. Pace will also be on-site helping as the director of the Cincinnati Junior Olympians, a tournament host.

U.S. Archery Trials

When: Today through June 19

Where: Heritage Oak Park, Mason

Cost: Free

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