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Thursday, July 7, 2005
Collins bags Archery gold

By Steve Wright
Great Outdoor Games staff

RENO, Nev. — Darren Collins has achieved what might be called an archery polar opposite achievement in the last three months. In May, Collins killed a polar bear with his bow. In near-100-degree heat Friday, Collins earned a gold medal in the ESPN Great Outdoors Games archery competition.

"Hunting is still better," said a smiling Collins after defeating Randy Ulmer in the gold medal round. "But this is pretty cool, too."

Darren Collins
Darren Collins "threads the needle."
Collins, a 37-year-old building contractor from Galena, Kan., needs to shoot only a desert bighorn sheep to have taken all 28 recognized North American big game species with his bow. It's known as the archery super slam.

After earning a bronze medal in last year's Great Outdoor Games, Collins now needs only silver to earn a sweep of the archery medals.

The medal rounds came down to a near rematch of last year's semifinals. Collins faced Randy Hendricks, who beat Collins and won the gold medal a year ago. And Collins avenged the loss, 42 to 39.

Forty-five points was the best possible score on the archery course, which added emphasis on shooting quickly this year. That 42-point score against Hendricks illustrated not just how well Collins was shooting, but how good someone had to be in order to eliminate Hendricks, who also won a gold medal in 2001.

Then Collins faced Randy Ulmer, a close friend and last year's silver medalist. And Collins beat Ulmer, 33 to 30.

Hendricks defeated Jackie Caudle to earn the bronze medal.

Tim Gilingham
Lehi, Utah's, Tim Gillingham bears down.
In this year's format, the archers shot four stations. But station four, named the Speed Challenge, was where matches were won or lost. You could score a maximum of 15 points at the Speed Challenge and your opponent could score no more than nine.

From 25 yards, competitors shot at three four-inch circular disks aligned vertically. A fourth disk off to one side was worth six points. When that fourth target was hit, it also dropped a plate. When either competitor's plate hit the ground, the round was over.

Ulmer, a veterinarian and businessman from Cave Creek, Ariz., was believed to have a slight edge over the others in the Speed Challenge. Going into the gold medal match, Ulmer had posted the quickest time in the event — hitting all four targets in 17 seconds.

"Randy and I have shot that together several times this week," Collins said. "He definitely had an edge. But he bobbled just a little and I was able to take advantage of it. When he missed, I knew I had time to shoot that last target, but that's still no easy shot."

Ulmer had worked on developing a smooth, efficient rhythm on the Speed Challenge. However, a west wind began kicking up during the semifinals, making every shot a challenge.

"I've worked on loading and shooting as quickly as possible," said Ulmer. "The key to that last station is to shoot it on rhythm. When that wind came up, I got out of rhythm a little bit. Typically, Darren and I would be hitting those targets dead center and we were just barely nicking them."

Or, as Collins put it, "Two of those shots I made, I jar-lipped 'em."

Jar-lipped or not, Collins rose to the challenge of shooting quickly against Ulmer. He closed out the Speed Challenge station in just under 19 seconds, the second-quickest time of the Archery competition.

Archery Final Standings

1. Darren Collins, Galena, Kansas
2. Randy Ulmer, Cave Creek, Ariz.
3. Randy Hendrix, Clemmons, N.C.
4. Jackie Caudle, Gadsden, Ala.
5. Rod White, Sparta, Wis.
6. Ginger Hopwood, Marietta, Ga.
6. Gerald Decker, Dalton, Pa.
6. Tim Gillingham, Lehi, Utah
9. Donald Bishop, Arden, N.C.
10. Mike Slinkard, Johnday, Ore.
11. Keith Brown, Greensboro, N.C.
11. Darin Mack, Avondale, Pa.
13. Aya LaBrie, Aurora, Colo.
13. Wade Gautreaux, Waynesville, Ohio
15. Mark Herring, Ravenna, Ohio
16. Valerie Chapman, Hendersonville, N.C.