While folks in Columbus and Buckeye Nation rejoice in the start of spring football and the joy of their men’s basketball program defeating Indiana University Tuesday night, may they not forget that the NCAA Rifle Championships are taking place in their backyard on the campus of The Ohio State University. Forty-eight athletes representing 12 NCAA Rifle programs will be shooting for respective individual and NCAA National Titles, March 8-9, at the Converse Hall and French Field House on the Ohio State campus.
Competitive rifle shooting has been an established NCAA program since 1980 with Tennessee Tech taking the first three NCAA titles in the program’s early beginnings. The NRA Collegiate and Schools Department manages all Collegiate & School Shooting Programs to include; NRA Collegiate Rifle & Pistol Sectionals, NCAA Rifle Championships, NRA Collegiate Pistol Championships, NRA Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championships, ACUI Shotgun Championships, and Senior ROTC.
“The NCAA program has long been a prime training ground for future U.S. team members that can set the path towards the Olympic podium,” said USA Shooting Director of Operations Dave Johnson who coached the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rifle Team to three-straight NCAA championships from 2001-03. “Team athletes learn critical skills for success in life and on the range. Most of the student athletes are high achievers-they perform in the classroom and behind the rifle. Self-discipline, motivation, goal setting and achievement, efficient use of limited practice time, athletic lifestyle, and the performance skills learned through regular competitions and dealing with high expectations are all critical experience factors that help develop athletes.”
USAS has long supported the NCAA program: the athletes for the NCAA Teams come through the USAS, CMP, and NRA pipelines. The USAS Junior Olympic Program is a prime training vehicle for young athletes and a great recruiting ground for coaches. USAS and the NCAA programs are close partners as both organizations feed athletes to each other.
USAS also has hosted the NCAA Championships twice and has played a leadership role in bringing the NCAA program into the electronic target and finals era. Ongoing programs include coach certification and training, athlete and coach mentoring, skill seminars sponsored by both USAS and USOC, and a constant eye towards building the sport.
The team qualifiers were announced Feb. 20 while individual participants were announced Feb. 21. The top-eight teams in both the Smallbore (.22 caliber) Three-Position and Air Rifle events include in order of their NCAA ranking: West Virginia, Texas Christian, Kentucky, Jacksonville State, Alaska-Fairbanks, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy and Nebraska.
The West Virginia Mountaineers qualified as the field’s top-ranked team with a 9432.0 qualification mark (aggregate top score of team air and smallbore rifle). This is WVU’s seventh straight qualification to the NCAAs. The Mountaineers, who last won a title at the 2009 NCAA Championships, will shoot for an all-time best 15th title. The Mountaineers are led by 2012 Italian Olympian Petra Zubasling as well as a pair of USA Shooting National Junior Team (NJT) members in freshman Garrett Spurgeon (Canton, Mo.) and Taylor Ciotola (Pasadena, Md.).
“The way the system works now, you really need to put an importance on every single match, and we’ve tried to shoot our best each match this season, said WVU head coach Jon Hammond recently. “Obviously, we’ve had some really great performances, and that’s good. We’re coming off a strong showing in our NCAA Qualifying Match at Ohio State, and it feels great to know we get to shoot for the title in that range, too. We’ve worked really hard this season, and each of the shooters has improved a lot. Now, we just have to maintain our focus.”
The Mountaineers will be challenged by the defending NCAA champion TCU Horned Frogs which features an all-ladies shooting squad led by 2012 Olympian and two-time NCAA champion Sarah Scherer (Woburn, Mass.) along with her USA Shooting teammate and three-time NCAA All-American Sarah Beard (Indianapolis, Ind.). This senior-laden squad also features former National Team member Caitlin Morrissey (Topeka, Kan.) along with fellow NJT member Catherine Green (Coventry, R.I.).
TCU went undefeated in 2012-13, recording a 10-0 mark. The Frogs have won 41 straightregular-season matches dating back to the 2009-10 campaign.
Also in the mix for a National Team title will be the Kentucky Wildcatswho were NCAA runner-ups in 2012 for the overall championships while winning the smallbore title for the second consecutive year. Ranked No. 3, the Wildcats wrapped up a strong overall season that included a third consecutive Great American Rifle Conference Regular Season Championship. The Wildcats broke numerous program records versus Army earlier in the year, including total aggregate score (4716), aggregate smallbore (2348), individual aggregate score (Henri JunghÄnel – 1186) and individual smallbore (JunghÄnel – 592). Kentucky also handed top-ranked West Virginia its only loss of the season on February 2, 4704 – 4695, to clinch the regular season conference title.
Led by the rise of freshman standout Connor Davis
(Shelbyville, Ky.), Kentucky Rifle boasts of three USA Shooting National Junior Team members. Emily Holsopple
(Wilcox, Pa.) and Elijah Ellis (Kingsport, Tenn.) also have that distinction after shooting performances in 2012 earned them their USA Shooting Team jackets.
See links below for completed team profiles for all three top-ranked teams. Team previews of the other five teams competing will be profiled on Thursday.
West Virginia University
Texas Christian University
University of Kentucky
Other USA Shooting standouts that will participate in the NCAA Championships include:
Ryan Anderson (Wasilla, Alaska) – University of Alaska Fairbanks
Michael Liuzza (New Orleans, La.) – University of Alaska Fairbanks
Tyler Rico (Tucson, Ariz.) – Air Force
Michael Matthews (Johns Creek, Ga.) – Army
Daniel Hermsmeier (Chesterfield, Mo.) – University of Memphis
Nearly all of the current National Team members shooting for the United States were NCAA All-Americans at some point including Matt Emmons, Jamie Gray and Joe Hein (Alaska Fairbanks), Jason Parker(Xavier) Eric Uptagrafft (West Virginia) and Amanda Furrer (Ohio State).
Individual and team competitions in smallbore three-position (60 shots) will be held Friday, March 8. Individual and team competitions in air rifle (60 shots) will be held Saturday, March 9. The overall team champion will be determined by combining the smallbore and air rifle team total scores into one aggregate score for each institution.
To preview NCAA Rifle rankings with team and individual scores, click here.USA Shooting’s athlete correspondent for the event is 2012 Olympian Amanda Furrer (Spokane, Wash.). Providing commentary throughout the week, Furrer began Monday with an NCAA overview and followed that up with today’s perspective on the individual nature of the shooting sports and how that translates when competing in a team environment.Follow the NCAA Rifle Championships this Friday (smallbore) and Saturday (air rifle), being held at Ohio State, through the following links:http://www.ncaa.com/championships/rifle/d1
The matches will be live streamed by Ohio State as well. The link to the LIVE Air and Smallbore can be found on this page once it goes live. http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com/sports/c-rifle/sched/osu-c-rifle-sched.html
*Ryan Anderson *Connor Davis
Cole Bures Heather Greathouse
Dustin Chesebro Aaron Holsopple
Mats Eriksson *Emily Holsopple
*Michael Liuzza Henri Junghanel
Jacksonville State Nebraska
Samantha Bullard Janine Dutton
Monica Fyfe Kelsey Hansen
Daniel McCall Denise Martin
Samuel Muegge Sunny Russell
Cole Tucker Katelyn Woltersdorf
Texas Christian Air Force
*Sarah Beard Meredith Carpentier
*Catherine Green David Higgins
Megan Lee Matt Kluckman
Caitlin Morrissey *Tyler Rico
*Sarah Scherer Kevyn Stinett
Army West Virginia
Richard Calvin *Taylor Ciotola
Alyssa Gestl Meelis Kiisk
*Michael Matthews Maren Prediger
William Mengon *Garrett Spurgeon
Joseph Todaro Petra Zublasing
*Elijah Ellis, Kentucky
Thomas Kyanko, West Virginia
Olivia Pennell, Nevada
Stacy Wheatley, Kentucky
Hannah Black, Texas Christian
*Daniel Hermsmeier, Memphis
Smallbore Three-Position and Air Rifle
Amanda Luoma, Ohio State
Abbey Stanec, Ole Miss
*Athletes selected for the 2012-13 USA Shooting National, National Junior or National Development Teams based on their shooting performances in 2012.
**Information was compiled with assistance from each school’s Sports Information Department along with Alan Lollar, head coach of Murray State.
ELEY is a Proud Sponsor of the USA Shooting Rifle and Pistol Teams: ELEY Limited, manufacturer of the world’s most consistently accurate rimfire ammunition, has been the Official Sponsor and Official Supplier of .22 rimfire ammunition of the USA Shooting rifle and pistol teams since 2000. For more information on ELEY and their products, please visit www.eley.co.uk.
About USA Shooting:
USA Shooting, a 501c3 non-profit corporation, was chartered by the United States Olympic Committee as the National Governing Body for the sport of shooting in April 1995. USA Shooting’s mission is to prepare American athletes to win Olympic medals, promote the shooting sports throughout the U.S. and govern the conduct of international shooting in the country. Check us out on the web at www.usashooting.org and on Twitter at twitter.com/USAShooting.