Penn College Archers Recount World University Games Experience
In a word, Pennsylvania College of Technology archers Zachary Plannick, of Coraopolis, and Glen Thomas, of Mercer, both described their recent World University Games experience as "amazing." Plannick especially had good reason to do so. The 20-year-old, who will be a junior in the fall at Penn College, came home with a gold medal as a member of the championship U.S. men's compound team. Although still recovering from the excitement of winning a gold on Saturday, the Games' closing ceremonies Sunday and a long flight home from Belgrade, Serbia, on Monday, Plannick took time Tuesday to talk about his most recent accomplishment. Plannick; Steven Gatto, of Atlantic Cape Community College; and Stephen Schwade, of the University of South Carolina, qualified fifth in a 12-team field; they then advanced to the final with victories over Serbia, 22-15; Canada, 22-21; and top-seeded Russia, 24-23. "The match against Serbia was one of the most fun because, the night before, we had gone to the men's basketball game and watched the U.S. beat Serbia by two points," Plannick said. "It was kind of cool watching the basketball team beat Serbia and then us beating Serbia the next day." The difference in his team's one-point wins over Canada and Russia were, he said, "a quarter of an inch here and there." Beating Russia was the key to gold, Plannick said. "We knew qualifying fifth that we were going to have to shoot good buckle down and start shooting some really good arrows. Once we beat Russia, it was like we beat the best team and there is nobody else. It's just us." Of course, officially, there still was No. 3 qualifier Mexico, but Plannick and his teammates didn't let the opportunity escape as they eased to a 23-19 win. "Everybody was in a zone. Everybody knew what we had to do. It definitely turned out nice," Plannick said. "It was awesome." In individual men's compound, Plannick qualified 19th in a 44-man field. He then lost in the first round of head-to-head eliminations to an archer from Indonesia. "The (qualifying) score that I shot was pretty good, but I didn't get as high as I wanted to. The kid that I lost to in the Olympic round only shot two points higher than I did (in qualifying), but he was five positions higher than me. Everything was very close," Plannick said. "It came down to one arrow (in his 112-111 elimination loss to Gusti Puruhito). The judge called it 'out.' It was either going to be a 10 or a nine, and if she would have called it 'in,' it would have been a tie, but she called it 'out' and I lost by one point," he said. "The (overall) experience really helps mentally. It helps you concentrate that much more. The level of competition is just unbelievable and going against people that good makes you want to shoot that much better," Plannick said. Plannick, who also brought home gold in 2006 as a member of the record-setting U.S. Junior compound team in Mexico, said he's hopeful of more international competition the next two years, but noted that the Olympic Games may never happen for him. "In the Olympics, they shoot recurve. I shoot compound. I don't know if they ever will put compound in, but if they do maybe one day "¦," he said. The World University Games, the Olympics for university students, are held biennially. During the 25th Games July 1-12, more than 6,300 athletes from 142 countries competed. Thanks to Plannick and his archery teammates, the United States finished fifth in the overall medal standings with 39, behind Russia, 76; Japan, 73; China, 58; and Korea, 47, according to the Games Web site. Although Thomas didn't medal, he, too, enjoyed the experience. Competing in men's recurve, Thomas qualified 38 of 70 in the individual portion of the tournament and then had some very bad luck in losing his first head-to-head match. "I shot a little lower than I would have liked to (in qualifying), but I still was pretty satisfied," the 19-year-old said. Things were going much better in his head-to-head match against Elias Cuesta, of Spain, as he opened an eight-point lead after shooting his first six arrows and seemed on the way to a win. But during his second end, his shirt blew out, hitting the string on his bow and causing an arrow to miss the target. That cost him 10 points in what turned out to be a 99-98 loss. "I wasn't too happy for a little while after that," Thomas admitted. He still had recurve team competition ahead of him, however, and he; Tim Meyers, of Texas A&M; and Jacob Wukie, of James Madison University, qualified eighth in a 17-team field. "We were pretty happy with that (qualification). There were only a couple of points separating teams and we could have even been higher. We had a pretty good shoot for that," Thomas said. In their first match, they faced No. 9 qualifier Mexico and won in a second tiebreaker. That pitted them against top-ranked Korea, where they fell 18-13. "We were just missing by a little bit. If we would have shot the way we did against Mexico, we would have had a better chance to beat them. They (Korea) gave us a chance to win, but we didn't take it," Thomas said. Regardless of one's finish, there are lessons to be learned, and Thomas noted, "I'll have to keep training hard and I'll keep trying to make "world' teams and hopefully I'll have a better result in the future. "I had a great opportunity over there. You get to meet so many people from other countries. Toward the end, people are trading their shirts and everything, and you get a lot of different countries mixing together. You put everything else aside and you are just people. It's just pretty neat," Thomas added.