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On Target

By Michael Hicks | June 04, 2012, 11 a.m. (ET)


COLORADO SPRINGS -- Miranda Leek stands at the line as a picture of concentration. Everything has to be perfect before the 19-year-old archer releases the arrow in the direction of her target.

The wind. Her mindset. The shot itself.

“When I’m on the line I make sure the conditions are something that I’m prepared to shoot in,” Leek said. “I take a deep breath and get ready for my shot. I go through it mentally. I get a good feeling about it. I go through it and make sure to achieve the things I need to achieve and go from there.”

It worked quite well this past weekend.

The right-handed shooter, who helped the U.S. women earn a silver for the first time in a World Cup last year, cemented herself as one of the team’s best. She solidified that notion on Sunday at the Grace Center for Athletics when she sewed up the lone U.S. women’s qualifying spot for the London 2012 Olympic Games, pending U.S. Olympic Committee approval.

Joining her in London on the men’s side will be Brady Ellison, a 2008 Olympian who is ranked No. 1 in the world in recurve, Jake Kaminski and Jacob Wukie.

Leek, who will be going to her first Olympic Games, scored 126.75 points after going 5-2 in round-robin play to topple four-time Olympian Khatuna Lorig, who was the Closing Ceremony flag bearer for Team USA at the 2008 Beijing Games, and two-time Olympian Jennifer Nichols. Leek’s 27.207 three-arrow average was second highest amongst the field.

Lorig and Nichols hope to join Leek in London. The trio will try to qualify a full three-person team when they compete at the Final Olympic Qualification Tournament on June 21 in Ogden, Utah. A top-three finish would send the whole women’s team to the Games.

“I’m ecstatic to be going to the Olympic Games for sure,” said Leek, who started shooting arrows when she was five. “It’s a dream come true. There are still some things to work on, areas to improve. I hope to go to the Olympic Games as strong as I’ve been shooting.”

Leek has been a true asset to Team USA, U.S. coach KiSik Lee said.

“She’s very new to the team, but she’s been great,” he said. “She’s young, but she can perform.”

Word of Leek’s success is starting to spread, especially in her hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. Leek is a 2011 graduate of West Des Moines’ Dowling Catholic High School who plans to study molecular and cell biology at Texas A&M in the fall.

It was approximately three years ago when Leek decided to see if she could stepladder her way through the U.S. teams and work her way into international competition.

“It’s been a matter of try as good as you can and where it takes you is where it goes,” father and personal coach Scott Leek said. “It’s taken her this far.

“It’s been an amazing run.”

And she hasn’t come close to the finish line yet.

The U.S. women haven’t won a team medal since taking bronze in 1988, and the last individual American female Olympic archery medalist was Luann Ryon, who won gold at Montreal in 1976. Team USA hasn’t won an Olympic archery medal of any kind — men or women — since Vic Wunderle took silver in 2000. But Leek, who has been training since earlier this year at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif., is hopeful.

The archer also provides hope off the course. Leek, who wears a shortened blonde ponytail, recently donated her lengthy, wavy hair to Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces for financially challenged children suffering from hair loss due to medical issues.

“I had really long hair,” Leek said. “It started getting in the way a lot. So I decided it was time for a shorter do. I figured I might as well do it for Locks of Love. We went a little bit shorter than I was comfortable with, but I did it for a good cause. It will grow back.”

It was her way of giving back. She figured: Why not do it while she has the opportunity?

The same could be said for her archery talent.

The opportunity was there to land the lone U.S. spot for London and she snared it. Now it’s time to bring her teammates with her come next month in Ogden.

As for her father, Scott: Is he ready to pinch himself knowing he’s the parent of a U.S. Olympian?

“It’s tough,” he said.

Maybe so, but not as tough as his daughter’s game.

Story courtesy Red Line Editorial, Inc. Michael Hicks is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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Miranda Leek