Josh Isenhoff thought he was about to shoot his bow for the final time at the U.S. National Outdoor Collegiate Championship, but it turned out to give him a much bigger opportunity.
Isenhoff, a senior at the University of the Cumberlands, will travel to Italy to represent the United States after qualifying for the 2019 World University Games.
The trials for the U.S. team were held during the National Collegiate Championship as a separate event. While Isenhoff didn't win an individual title to go with his two team championships at the event, qualifying to represent his country is a consolation prize the Gracey native will take.
Isenhoff shot the highest score in the men's compound division, finishing seven points above the second-place shooter.
However, it wasn't until a month out from the tournament that he found out he had the opportunity to even qualify.
"I actually found out that I had the opportunity to go only a month before the tournament happened, so it was kind of short notice," he said. "I knew I had an outdoor college national tournament which was going to be my last one ever. I was transferring to a different college that didn't have archery and I was moving on. For a while, I was planning on this being my last tournament.
"A month before the tournament, our coach sits us down and said, 'hey, at this tournament you can qualify for the USA World University Games.' … It didn't really hit me until the end."
It also was a unique opportunity, as he said this was the first time the trials were held at a collegiate tournament.
See Games/Page B6
"This is the first year where they put it at an actual collegiate tournament that involves all collegiate archers," Isenhoff said. "I was able to qualify by performing at a collegiate national archery tournament hosted by USA Archery.
"This year was a little different. They took the top two scorers in each class (compound and recurve bow). In previous times they took three."
Now Isenhoff looks ahead to the World University Games, where he is now in a place that he isn't too familiar with. He said he's played in big situations before and said he hopes his mental preparation has been good enough to perform at the biggest stage.
"Mentally, you prepare the best you can," Isenhoff said. "I try and visualize while I'm shooting in practice the pressure that I'm going to have and try to imagine the situation.
"I've had tournaments before where I've shot for a lot money at a national event outside of the college circuit and so I've had practice under pressure, but this was surreal. It was cool … If you talk to anybody that has done it for a while, everyone agrees that it's 95-98 percent mental when you get the skills down."
He also is aware representing your country in a world championship is a much bigger beast than anything he has ever competed in.
"I've been trying to do that here at home -- that mental preparation," he said. "I'm not really sure what to expect, to be honest. I've never been on this stage, a world championship stage. I reckon it will probably be about like any other tournament if I can get my focus down. As long as I can keep a level head and focus on each individual shot one at a time, then that first shot should on just like the last."
The 2019 World University Games begins Tuesday in Italy.