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Georgia Southern archer’s Olympic dreams come into sharper focus in Ankara, Turkey

Pelton

Georgia Southern student Cassy Pelton, an archer with the Southern Eagles Archery Club, saw her Olympic dreams come into sharper focus after she placed 33rd in the world at the Ankara 2016 World Archery Indoor Championships in Ankara, Turkey.

Even though she didn’t place as high as she hoped, Pelton said the experience helped her understand what it takes to compete on the Olympic level.

“I came back and I was reflecting on the whole experience, and I was looking at people’s scores and how they were shooting and it’s not any kind of scores that I’ve never shot,” she said. “So I could shoot 30 — a perfect score — just like the girl next to me can shoot a perfect score. So it’s a matter of how often you do it.”

Pelton, a junior pre-med major, missed the individual elimination rounds by just one point. In the team rounds, her USA Team faced off against Russia in a tense back and forth 4-4 match that ended in a one-arrow shoot-off. Pelton was the lead archer taking the first shot — one of the most terrifying of her life.

“It was a lot of pressure,” she said. “That shot was a nine, and it was frustrating because the only reason it wasn’t a 10 — because it felt like a 10 — was that I was shaking too much. But I was up there thinking, ‘I’ve got to start us off well, and if I don’t, then the rhythm for the rest of the end is off.’”

Russia went on to win the shoot-off, and won the bronze medal in the team tournament.

Despite the losses, however, Pelton came home more confident than she left. In Ankara, she faced the best archers from every country in the world, many of whom were Olympians. She was shooting alongside women she’d watched in competition for years, admiring them and aspiring to the level they’d reached.

And during this tournament, she was one of them.

“You know, you dream about going to the Olympics when you’re a little girl, and you’d like to do stuff like that, but it just seems so far away,” she said. “But then I came back and thought, ‘No, that’s not really that far away. That’s totally attainable.’”

To reach her goal, Pelton says she needs good practice and time. At 21, she was one of the younger archers in the tournament. Many of the best archers in the world are more than 10 years her senior, and have “a lot more shooting under their belt.”

For Pelton, the best practice is competition. And even though she returned from Ankara just a few weeks ago, she traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, on April 6 to compete in the United States Archery Team Arizona Cup, the first of the outdoor archery season. The event is her first outdoor competition in the senior division, and will provide her and three other Southern Eagles Archery team members a chance to qualify for the World University Games, which will be held in Mongolia this summer.

The tournament will also be the first in a series of events that will allow Pelton to qualify for the U.S. Archery Team. It’s just one more step in realizing her goal to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. After competing in Ankara, she sees that goal much differently.

“The Olympics just seems like another tournament,” she said. “I mean a really, really good, really awesome big tournament, but something that I can qualify for because I qualified to make a world team for indoor. I can shoot the same score.

“I just have to do it more.”

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