AoR Juniors triumphant at County Champs.

My winning/losing raffle ticket.  What a laugh.
My winning/losing raffle ticket. What a laugh.

This summer has all been about the wind.  It’s been windy during practice, windy during scoring sessions and even windier during competitions around the county.  Today would be no different and the weather would unfavourably throw the dice during the day as well.

Today Lauren and I would be joining Katie, Amber, Imogen and Louis, along with Martin and Simon for the Northants County Championships.  Hosted by Wellingborough Open Archery Club, the journey to the venue would be short.  With kit checked, double checked and located by the front door the evening before, Lauren was ready for a positive day of shooting.

Sunday morning and with the car packed, we headed off to WOAC to arrive at about 08.30.  With sighters scheduled for 09.15, that would be ample time to set-up, warm-up and relax before shooting.

As always, the field at Wren School was immaculately prepared with WOACs lovely foam bosses spreading right across the field.  The weather was clear with the sun clearing the morning dew from the field and a strong breeze blowing straight up the field from boss to archer.  This breeze would strengthen during the shoot and the weather would throw in a couple of heavy showers to mix things up a little and also bring the temperature down.  The only fly in the ointment, was the caretaker who failed to turn out and who delayed the assembly by a good half an hour.  No fault of the organisers, as this is beyond their control and everything else was just perfect.

Our judges would be Val Ewart, Heather Bayliss and taking the lead, Peter Mallard.  Assembly was called a little before 10:00 and following the usual briefing one end of sighters would commence a couple of minutes later and just before 10:00.

With six AoR archers on the field, I’ll save you the arrow by arrow commentary and just pick out the highlights.  As usual most of those would come from the juniors section, simply because that is where most of my time was needed.

Off the back of some strong tournament performances, Martin had a difficult time owing to a sight issue where his sight block kept moving.  He finished the shoot, but I don’t yet have his score.  As the only senior member representing AoR (Simon being an associate member so wearing his WOAC shirt) I’d like to thank Martin for working the circuit and taking over Shane’s role in promoting AoR at neighbouring clubs shoots.

The sighters for the juniors were nothing overly spectacular or disastrous.  Given the strengthening wind and with the flags blowing horizontally up the field, the five juniors set decent sighters and they all settled down to the shoot.  Imogen would be shooting the Bristol III, with the other four all shooting a Bristol II.

Given that this was Amber and Imogen’s first large tournament, I thought that the score would make way for the nerves, but from the off that proved not to be the case.  Neither of the girls had any major dramas throughout the shoot, they listened to advice and shot really well to both post personal bests.

Amber opened very strongly with the first three dozen in the 60’s and a high of 64, before fatigue set in at the long distance, but she finished with a strong 337 for the distance.  A rest over lunch would see a strong 314 and 184 for the last two distances (with a fine 52 for her last dozen arrows) and she would finish the tournament on a fine 835 and a new personal best.

Imogen also started strongly and shot consistently throughout the day, shooting a fine 444 for the 50 yard distance and she followed that up with a series of 40 scoring ends with a fine 50 for the penultimate dozen.  Imogen would also finish the shoot with a personal best and a smashing 976.  The magic 1,000 will not be far away.

Both girls would earn Rose awards for their efforts and they’d have to wait for the awards to see what more might come their way.

Whilst I was popping down to Imogen and Amber throughout the day to offer some encouragement and to make sure all was well, most of my time was taken up by Katie and then Lauren.  Thankfully, Louis (shooting on the same boss as the girls) would have a solid shoot throughout and even a handful of misses did not faze him as he powered through the tournament with a grin that got bigger and bigger as the day wore on.

Louis’ 60 yard distance was solid and consistent with scores ranging from 68 to a high of 78 and he’d go into the break with a fine 435 posted on the board.  He had a great change over, which saw his equal best dozen score of 92, he’d complete the 50 yard distance without any problems and a nice 317.  The only blip was a cloud burst mid-way through which upset one end and that will be no surprise to anyone who has tried shooting in the rain with glasses – Katie struggled that same end as well with the rain driving full into her face and both desperately needing windscreen wipers for the glasses.

Me?  Well, like a coward I headed for the tent until the rain stopped.

Louis' impossible shot - Bending an arrow around the boss.
Louis’ impossible shot – Bending an arrow around the boss.

So, Louis would finish the shoot on a 926 with only 5 misses and 37 golds.  Not a personal best, but that was never on the cards given the conditions.  Other than the benefit of Louis’ company, the only real entertaining point to note was a rogue arrow that would bend itself around the boss as in the image.  I’d like to see you do that again Louis.

Katie’s story would be very different to begin with.  She would be the first casualty to equipment issues that would keep me busy all day.  She opened with a 22, all scoring but well off her usual pace and this repeated the low score from the practice the day before with arrows landing low on the boss at the 60 yard distance.  This was followed up with a 15 to make just 37 for the dozen.  A quick discussion and check of the bow did not show anything and her nocking point came into question again.  She then posted a 29 and her second miss of the day and things started to become concerning – this was just not Katie at all.  Her fourth end was the decider.  She’d shoot just 6 points from the six arrows with two 3’s and four misses.  Something was definitely not right and she walked into the tent with a comment of “There is something wrong with the bow, it’s not me!”

During the end she had been adjusting her sight and moving the sight down and in was just making the issue worse.  Was it the arrows losing momentum from the steeper arch, was the wind playing a part in the issue or was there something else.  This time I found the issue.  As she’d been moving the sight, the bar had moved to a weird angle.  She’d effectively been moving the sight up and in the ‘opposite’ direction to the arrow and her intended direction.  Closer inspection found a screw missing and the sight twisting out of position.  Easily fixed, she’d reset her sight and bang in a 28 and 34 over the next two ends.

With Lauren now 75 points ahead of Katie and Amber 53 points ahead, was it time for Katie to lose heart, throw in the towel and give up?  Not on your life.  Anyone that knows Katie will know that things like this are like a red rag to a bull.  She had come out of the starting blocks with a stumble, but watch her go on the back and closing straights.

With confidence in her bow restored and the satisfaction that it was not her, she’d close out the 60 yard distance with a disappointing (for Katie) 361 but the challenge to catch Lauren was on.  With Amber tiring slightly, Katie had piped her to second place, but only by a few points.

Given the experience difference, I’ll remind you that Amber was shooting very well and Lauren and Katie should really have been well ahead by this point.  Katie was only 24 points ahead with Lauren just 96.  I think Amber and Imogen are a couple of sisters to watch over the coming months and it will be interesting to see how they shoot outdoors next year.

Anyway, back to Katie.  With her dramas behind her, Katie would really knuckle down during the mid distance, posting a 100 for the first dozen and 357 for the 50 yard distance overall.  Following the change to 40 yards and she’d be on Lauren’s heels with only 30 points separating them.  She’d match Lauren for the first dozen arrows of the 40 yard distance and she’d claw back a fair number of points with a strong 102 for the final dozen of the tournament.

One of the highlights of this tournament was provided by the weather.  It became quite cold and, following the rain, things became cold and damp.  Lauren and Katie both complained of the cold, but it was Katie who would suffer the most and on one end she could be seen walking off to collect her arrows wearing her body warmer and Joanna’s car blanket slung around her shoulders.  With the wind getting even stronger the rug was blowing out behind her like a Batman cape.  If only I’d have had my camera (sigh).

Was it enough to retain her title – we’ll see.  Either way this was a truly gutsy performance where many a good archer would have given up and gone home following a 6 point end in a major tournament.  True to her character and gritty determination she’d go on to do herself proud on the day.  How she dug herself out of the bad place she started the tournament in, I will never know.  Lauren was also dogged by equipment failures last year and had to do the same, I can honestly say that we have two very determined and gutsy youngsters in the club.

So to Lauren, what would her day turn out like?  Lauren would have a relatively consistent 60 yards with an overall score of 433 for the distance and she’d finish just two points behind Louis.  Unusually, no real dramas for Lauren up to the break.  Following the break, she would open with a 77 dozen and then another 77 dozen.  This would drop to 73 during the rain and then she’d finish on a nice 88 for the distance.  Her 40 yards distance is where she usually wobbles (we are yet to work out why) but she’d post an 80 and an 86 to finish the tournament on a 914.  Whilst she only had four missed arrows all day, there were too many blues at the closer distances and that was largely down to a problem with her fletchings.  She’d be losing two or three fletchings an end following the rain and it would keep me busy refletching arrows to keep her shooting.  Unfortunately, these lost fletchings appeared to result in a lot of blues and a lot of dropped points.

I have since learned that it is wise to replace all spin wing fletchings at the beginning of each season.  This was the second season of Lauren shooting these arrows and I had not changed the fletchings.  Mixed with the rain, the sticking tape was far from sticky for those fletchings that parted company from the arrows.  Another lesson learned for the future.

So with the shoot over, equipment packed away and stowed in the car we settled down to the presentations.  But first, the raffle (yes Katie, I’ll put it in the blog posting).  I usually buy a few raffle tickets at each tournament to support the hosting club.  However, every time Lauren and I watch for our number to be called and we never win.  Following a busy day I was glad to sit down and propped myself up against Lauren’s chair.  Neither of us noticed that our ticket had been called until too late and only when another ticket was about to be pulled.  Lauren, Katie I just saw the funny side, laughed and laughed and it brightened up a soggy afternoon.  Like the sad person that I am, I’ve kept the ticket for prosperity and it still makes me smile to think that the one time our number was pulled from the bag, we missed it.

So into the awards.  Christine ran thorough the senior awards and Martin was not fortunate enough to claim a medal on this occasion, but I know that more will come his way.  However, it was a different story for the juniors, with each one of them taking home a little shiny medal.

Louis Paul, NCAS Junior Gent Outdoor County Champ.
Louis Paul, NCAS Junior Gent Outdoor County Champ.

Louis claimed gold for his junior gents Bristol II and also the highest score for the trio (Lauren, Katie and Louis).  Louis beating Lauren by just 12 points and only 14 points separating the three archers.  It really was another AoR junior’s battle and I’m looking forward to Amber taking Lauren’s place in the battles next year when Lauren moves up to the seniors.

Lauren took gold for the junior ladies Bristol II, with Katie taking the silver and Amber the bronze.  Imogen took a well-deserved second place and the silver for the Bristol III.  Furthermore, Louis was crowned Junior Gent Outdoor County Champion and he looked super proud receiving his trophy from Mum (Leza) who was fulfilling the role of Lady Paramount for the occasion.  I was equally proud of Lauren for taking the trophy and title of Junior Lady Outdoor County Champion and even more so as this will be her last chance to take the accolade.

Left to Right, Amber Wilkins, Imogen Neville, Lauren Phillips, Louis Paul & Katie Bayliss.
Left to Right, Amber Wilkins, Imogen Neville, Lauren Phillips, Louis Paul & Katie Bayliss.

With Bradley and Katie as last year’s champions, AoR can now boast four county champions in their ranks and I hope to have more as some of our younger archers progress.  I know that Katie will be back next year to retake her crown and I’ll expect Louis to be pushing to retain his.

All in all, another stupendous tournament for AoR’s junior archers.  Now we just need more of the seniors venturing out into tournaments.  Any takers???

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