Morgantown, WV -(Ammoland.com)- March is upon us and that means just one thing in the shooting world. NCAA Rifle Championships and another chance for West Virginia University (WVU) to once again reassert itself as the dominant collegiate rifle program in the land.
Boasting proudly their 16 championship titles, this year’s Mountaineer squad will stroll onto the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) as the favorite to win it all yet again when action begins Friday at the E.F. Horton Rifle Range and Patty Center. WVU head coach Jon Hammond, now in his ninth season at the helm of Mountaineer rifle, has heaped heavy praise on his current squad calling them the “most talented team ever” since he began coaching there in a WVU press release earlier Tuesday.
“The team has come together better than any team I've had,” said Hammond, who has guided WVU to three national titles. “They have combined all of the attributes of shooting well, and there’s a really good drive about the team. They have a great work ethic and a determination to shoot the best they can.”
There seems to be but one major obstacle to overcome with Nanook nation set to cheer their team on to victory with a home-range advantage and the necessary firepower it will take.
The two teams met as recently as January 31 and February 1, with the team splitting a pair of matches and separated by just two total points during the duel. West Virginia earned a three-point victory in the first match while Alaska pulled out a one-point win to break a 25-match winning streak for the Mountaineers.
“We are really excited to be shooting championships at home this weekend,” said 2014 NCAA Smallbore Rifle Champion Tim Sherry. “We have a huge amount of support from the community up here and that will hopefully be great for other teams to experience. We are absolutely thrilled to have our entire town behind us for this competition. As for winning titles, whether team or individual, it is definitely on our mind and has been a major source of motivation throughout the year, but right now we are just focused on ourselves and making sure we put in the best performance we can over the weekend. Our team has grown so much this year. We are right where we want to be at this point so we are ready to put up a big score and see what happens from there.”
Nine of the top-15 individual Air Rifle scores during the NCAA season were recorded by Mountaineer or Nanook athletes. Five WVU athletes including National Junior Team member Garrett Spurgeon (Canton, Missouri) have recorded a 596 or higher. Four UAF athletes have done so including National Team members Sagen Maddalena (Groveland, California) and Ryan Anderson (Wasilla, Alaska) as well as National Junior Team members Tim Sherry (Highlands Ranch, Colorado) and Lorelie Stanfield (Fairbanks, Alaska).
Similarly, six of the top-17 smallbore (.22 caliber) scores, registering 587 or greater, features athletes from the two proud programs led by West Virginia’s four.
“I'm pretty excited about this weekend,” said the senior Anderson competing in his final collegiate match. “We have beat multiple team records this year and have put in more effort than ever, so I won't be surprised at all to see us put up some big numbers this weekend. It's what we do. There's a big difference between unwarranted ego and confidence, and we have confidence because we've earned it through hard work. I'm looking forward to the competition.”
Seniors Meredith Carpentier of the Air Force Academy and Ryan Anderson of the host Alaska Nanooks hope to end their collegiate careers in style, while WVU freshman Elizabeth Gratz (left) hopes to help add to a proud Mountaineer legacy at this week's NCAA Rifle Championships. Other top contending schools will be Texas Christian University, Jacksonville State, Kentucky, Murray State, Nebraska and Air Force, ranked No. 3 thru No. 8 in the rankings. Texas Christian, led by National Team athlete Hannah Black (Richmond, Virginia) and National Junior Team member Mindy Miles (Weatherford, Texas), owns two top air rifle scores as well as two top smallbore scores as well. TCU along with Jacksonville State are the only two programs besides West Virginia and Alaska to have registered team scores above 4,690.
USA Shooting will be well-represented in another testament to how important NCAA Rifle is to the organization’s development pipeline. The roster of athletes set to compete in Fairbanks includes seven current National, 10 Junior and one Development Team member.
USA Shooting will provide exclusive coverage of the NCAA Rifle Championships March 13-14 for the third straight year and has assigned National Development Team member and Nanook alum Mike Liuzza (New Orleans, Louisiana) to help bring you all the action. You can follow all the excitement by tuning into USA Shooting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For more NCAA Rifle preview including quotes from other USA Shooting Team members competing and a closer look at how the individual championships will unfold, click here.
About USA Shooting
USA Shooting is home to your Olympic shooting team. There are 15 different Olympic shooting events in three different disciplines (rifle, pistol and shotgun). Collectively, American shooters are some of the most prolific medal winners in U.S. Olympic history.
To learn more about Olympic shooting, please visit www.USAShooting.org.