Pearce like an arrow

19-year-old victorious in women; Anderson takes men at Big Sky

Paige Pearce, of California, draws her bow Sunday at the Big Sky Open archery tournament at the DoubleTree Hotel in Grand Junction. Pearce, 19, won the women’s Championship Freestyle. Below, Steve Anderson, the men’s Freestyle Championship winner, inspects his bow..

Steve Anderson in the Big Sky Open Sunday at the DoubleTree Hotel.

Henry Bass appeared poised Sunday to introduce fellow Utah archer Steve Anderson to the pain of finishing second at the Big Sky Open archery tournament.

Instead, he’ll cash another runner-up check.

Anderson, a member of the United States Archery Team along with Bass, denied his training partner that final step to the top, taking the men’s Championship Freestyle title himself after also coming close the previous two years.

Anderson raised a fist as he said, “Finally I’m a winner.”

It was more a sigh of relief than an exultation.
After placing fourth last year and third two years ago, when Bass won a tiebreaker over him for second place, Anderson showed Sunday how much he’s grown as an archer in the past three years.

Anderson, Bass and another Utah archer, Colton Hamilton, entered Sunday’s second and final round tied for first place. After the first half of the round, though, Anderson had 296 of a possible 300 points, Bass had 294, and Hamilton and fellow contender Ray Tenbrook had fallen off the pace with scores of 289 and 288, respectively.

The title was going to go to Anderson or Bass, and the latter had momentum when he pulled into a tie at the 40-yard target.

That’s when Anderson mustered a championship finish. The lead was his alone after the 45-yard target. Then, he put all three of his arrows in the 10 ring at the 50-yard target, while Bass put his three arrows in the nine ring, falling behind by four points with two targets remaining.

Anderson said he didn’t get nervous when Bass pulled even, and that’s a product of experience.

“You can’t do anything about it,” Anderson said of what the competition is doing. “You can’t play defense. I just tried to make the best shots I can to close it out.”

That included putting two arrows in the 10 ring on the final target, the 65-yarder, a day after all three of his shots there landed in the 9 ring. Anderson finished with 1,177 points, seven ahead of Bass. Hamilton finished third at 1,163.

Anderson was happy to win, but he also knows what Bass is feeling.

“We were shooting so well, and he had just one bad target,” Anderson said. “I feel bad for him. He’s my buddy. He probably won’t talk to me for a few days, but we’ll be back at it next week.”

Bass acknowledged his frustration.

“I’m tired of taking second, as bad as that sounds,” he said.

Bass said he needed to do a better job of judging Sunday’s breezy conditions, and, “I was fighting my bow a little bit.”

Pearce debuts with title

Another member of the U.S. Archery Team won the women’s Championship Freestyle as 19-year-old Californian Paige Pearce made her first appearance at the Big Sky and dethroned two-time-defending champion Seneca Francis of Utah.

Pearce entered the final round with a two-point lead over Utah’s Easter Brock, but she pulled away Sunday. Francis climbed into second place, but Pearce outscored her by 15 points to finish with a two-day total of 1,133 points, 23 more than Francis.

Pearce liked her second-round score of 577 much better than Saturday’s 556. The difference Sunday was she fixed a problem with her bow string hitting the string suppressor when firing the arrow.

Pearce said parts got moved on her bow when she came back from Colombia, where she finished fifth individually and helped the U.S. women’s team win the gold medal in a World Cup event. Once she figured out what was out of place, she reaped the benefits.

She also scored much better once she got past the first three targets (20, 25 and 30 yards) on each half of the V alignment. Pearce said she was missing the 10 ring at least once on each of those targets. She felt more comfortable on the farther targets, adding her reaction to getting past the first three was: “Yes! It’s over.”

Pearce said the Big Sky Open was her first tournament in which the target order goes from closest to farthest. She’s used to starting on the farthest and finishing on the closest.

“Yesterday caught me completely off guard,” she said of her first round.

Good first impression

Pearce said she wanted to compete at the Big Sky Open before this year, but her schedule didn’t allow it.

That wasn’t the case this year, as she said, “Because I wasn’t doing anything else, I was like, ‘Heck, yeah! Let’s go!’ ”

She said she enjoyed the tournament, and if her schedule next year allows it, she’ll come back.

She said the competition is good, and, “It’s a more low-key tournament than I’m used to, but it’s nice to get that break.”

Pearce also liked the fun events the Big Sky offers, such as the “GoForIt” clay-pigeon shoot and the shootdown.

“None of the other places do that,” she said.

Pearce’s schedule may open up next year because of her career path. She will step away from the U.S. Archery Team for a few years to get her law degree at Cal Northern School of Law in Chico, California. She begins law school in August.

Senior title significant

Robert Gregg of Nebraska won the men’s Championship Senior Freestyle for the first time, holding off runner-up Benton Christensen of Idaho, Colorado’s Bill Pellegrino, who placed third, and Idaho’s Dee Wilde, who had the best second round but finished fourth.

Gregg finished with 1,149 points, nine ahead of Christensen.

It was the 51-year-old’s fifth time competing in the Big Sky and his second time in the senior division. Gregg said the win felt good because it came against some of the world’s best senior archers.

“When you can compete with those guys, you’re doing good,” he said.

Rare father-son pairing

After several years away from the Big Sky Open, Conifer’s Tony Clem returned to the event this year and brought his 15-year-old son, Tanner, with him — to compete this time.

Big Sky organizer Tootie Brabec said when the Big Sky returned in 2000 after a five-year hiatus, Clem won the men’s Championship Freestyle, and she has pictures of 2-year-old Tanner on his father’s knee.

Tony Clem, 45, got the added bonus of shooting in the same Championship Freestyle foursome Saturday as Tanner. They weren’t originally scheduled to shoot in the same group, but a misprint on the schedule forced an adjustment that put them together.

Tony liked that it worked out that way, and they got to do it again Sunday because they were next to each other in the standings after Round 1. Tony led Tanner by two points going into the second round, but Tanner outscored Dad on Father’s Day by four points to finish two ahead of him.

Tony doesn’t let Tanner win, so he’s happy when Tanner does get the best of him.


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