Athlete’s Perspective: 2013 NCAA Rifle Championship Recap
COLUMBUS, Ohio (March 11, 2013)
USA Shooting’s athlete correspondent for the 2013 NCAA Rifle Championship is 2012 Olympian Amanda Furrer (Spokane, Wash.). Providing commentary throughout the week, Furrer began Monday with an NCAA overview and followed that up with a perspective on the individual nature of the shooting sports and how that translates when competing in a team environment.
Smallbore Rifle (March 9)
This year, I am experiencing the 2013 NCAA Rifle Championship in a whole new way, as a spectator rather than a competitor. Today, the competition kicked off with the smallbore event. The event seemed to go almost as any other match would. There were people with high scores, people with low scores, and people everywhere in between. There is one thing you can always count on though; the match isn’t over until the final shot has been called.
The 3-position event shot today is the same event that I competed in at the Olympics last summer. A lot of people don’t understand the mentality of shooting a match like this, which takes two hours to complete. As for me, I love the prone and kneeling positions, and struggle through standing where I have to exert some extra effort. Everybody has their favorite and least favorite positions. Today, as I watched, I could relate to a lot going on with the competitors.
It is always difficult to get accustomed to a new range in such a short period of time. All of the competitors are given one day of training and then are thrown into the match. This means the shooter needs to figure out the new lighting, targets, temperature, and overall atmosphere on the range within a short period of time. This adds to the difficulty of competition. Something that is especially different about NCAA Championships is that there are way more people watching than usual and a ton more media attention. There are cameras everywhere and spectators eyeing your every move. Try shooting a perfect ten with that kind of pressure!
In the smallbore event, there is not a lot of room for error, but a huge opportunity for it. In the match today, I watched as people took shots that would make me cringe, and I know they were cringing on the inside as well. I, like all of the other shooters, know that you absolutely have to give 100% through your last position, because you never know what could happen with the other shooters. Kneeling, the last position, is a really hard one to shoot. You have extra pressure knowing that it is the last 20 shots you will take in the match, and it is not a fun position to get into. Your position has to be built to perfection or it will take a toll on your scores. Some shooters perform fabulously through their first two positions and then tank when it gets to kneeling. Some shooters, like me, try to make up for what they lacked in the standing position by shooting a great kneeling. It all differs depending on the shooter. It was the make-it-or-break-it position today in the Championship.
I give credit to all of the individuals who made the final. The lowest score in the final was a 580, which is a fabulous score. Amanda Luoma from Ohio State was in the 8th place position tied for 7th, and this was her first NCAA Championship! She admits that she got nervous during the final, but still really enjoyed the competition and felt lucky to be a part of it. I think it was an impressive match for her and am looking forward to see what she will do tomorrow for the Buckeyes. 2012 Olympian for Italy and West Virginia shooter, Petra Zublasing, won the match today with a world-class score of 589 and a solid final. Both the individuals and the teams had to bring their A-game to the range today.
This is the first NCAA Championship that Ryan Tanoue, the Ohio State Rifle Coach, has got to be a part of as a coach rather than a competitor. He believes the championship is going great so far and that there was a very high level of performance on the range today.
Air Rifle (March 10)
Air rifle is an interesting event in NCAA Rifle. There is only one position to be shot, standing, and the margin for error is little to none. For example, in the air rifle event in the Olympic Games last summer, the top 8 women were separated by two points. After finals, the top two positions were separated by 7/10 of a point. The difference between winning and losing in this competition comes down to a fraction of a point.
This match in the USA is a mean one. There are a handful of shooters that can put up the scores necessary to win, so it undoubtedly becomes a fight to the finish. As more shooters have begun to compete on the international level, score levels in our country have risen substantially. There is a continuous effort to improve our results relative to the rest of the world. NCAA air rifle competition is a huge contributor to that, offering some of the best experience to competitors across the country.
It takes an incredible amount of focus and stamina to shoot an air rifle match. You stand there for almost two hours trying to hold the rifle steady on the target to execute a perfect shot. Any movement or divergence from the center of the target can ruin your entire match. We aren’t just trying to hit the ten once, or twice, or ten times. We are trying to hit the ten 60 shots in a row. When I say, “hit the ten,” I’m talking about a ten that is the size of a pen dot from 10 meters. This is not an easy task. People underestimate the skill it takes to be a precision rifle shooter until they give it a try themselves. It’s takes a lot of hard work, focus, and discipline!
Team results rolled in after second relay which gave us our 2013 NCAA Air Rifle Champion, West Virginia University. WVU also won the championship overall, followed by University of Kentucky and then Texas Christian University. Scores for air rifle individually after both relays were fairly close towards the top, except for one shooter, Petra Zublasing (WVU), who went into the final in 1st place and a league ahead of the rest of the pack. She posted a score of 598, four points above second place Hannah Black (TCU) who went in 3 points above 3rd place. As I mentioned before though, it all comes down to finals. In today’s case, Petra once again put out an exceptional final to secure her spot as NCAA Smallbore Champion. This makes her champion for both events. What a way to end her senior year! There was a tie for the 2nd and 3rd place positions between Sarah Scherer and Cole Tucker. The tie-breaker went to 2012 Olympian and TCU senior Sarah Scherer. Congratulations to all competitors and to the new 2013 NCAA Rifle Champions!