Darrell Pace, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in archery, barely held off archrival Rick McKinney to win his third National Sports Festival championship Tuesday in a thrilling battle of long-range accuracy and steel nerves.
Pace, 29, of Hamilton, Ohio, and the 31-year-old McKinney, of Mesa, Ariz., seesawed in and out of the lead throughout the four days of shooting over distances of 30, 50, 70 and 90 meters. After the longtime rivals had shot their final arrows, Pace had 2,592 points, two more than McKinney.
In a sport where even the slightest twitch can be devastating, Pace and McKinney’s cool under tight competition was remarkable.
“Once Rick and I are 20 or 25 points ahead of the rest of the competition, it’s just him and me,” said Pace. “But there is always a threat. It hasn’t always been that way and it won’t always be that way.”
The result was a repeat of their standings at the Los Angeles Olympics last summer, when McKinney earned a silver medal while Pace was adding the gold to his 1976 Olympic championship.
“I’m feeling a lot better than I did at the Olympics,” said Pace. “I was struggling then. It’s been a long time since I felt this good.”
Also feeling good was Melanie Skillman of Lauderdale, Pa., who won the women’s competition with 2,459 points. She withstood a strong charge from Maureen Frank of Arlington Heights, Ill., to finish first by six points.
“This is the first time I’ve ever started on top and stayed there,” she said. “I’ve always been in the top five but never on top.”
Finals in the evening included gold medal games in men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s team handball. Also concluding were tennis, swimming, speed skating, tae kwon do, table tennis and equestrian.
In swimming, where nine golds were up for grabs, four-time winner Jeff Olsen of Austin, Texas, was entered in the 800-meter relay as he sought to become the first athlete to win five races in one festival. Olsen, who previously won the 200 butterfly, 200 400 and 800-meter freestyle, swims for the West team.
Steve Jung, from Hacienda Heights, Calif., and Mark Keil, of Albuquerque, N.M., were overwhelming in a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Job Foley of Virginia Beach, Va., and Jeff O’Dwyer of Pittsford, N.Y., for the men’s doubles gold medal in tennis. In women’s doubles, Michelle Mras of Anaheim and Diane Merrett, from Richardson, Tex., won, 6-4, 6-3, over Sharon Fletcher of Spokane, Wash., and Dawn Parkhurst of Houston.
In mixed doubles, top-rated Nicole Arendt of Princeton, N.J., and Rich Benson of Ogden, Utah, earned gold with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over fourth-seeded Michulka and Merrett.
In an evening match, Benson was to play Tim Donovan of Pittsburgh for the men’s championship and Arendt was to face Fletcher for the women’s title.
The West (2-1) moved into the baseball finals behind a two-run homer by Daniel Rumsey of San Diego that triggered a six-run eighth inning for a 10-4 victory over the North. The South also is in the finals despite a 10-5 loss Tuesday to the East.
North starting pitcher Jason Kolonski of River Forest, Ill., survived a freak accident in the fourth inning. As he walked up to bat, Kolonski stepped on an aerosol can of pine tar and it sprayed his face. The game was delayed 10 minutes while trainers flushed Kolonski’s eyes with water.
He then stepped to the plate and singled on the first pitch to knock in a run.