Mountaineers Poised for More March Magic; Nanooks Hope to Spoil with Home-Range Advantage at NCAA Rifle Championships

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 10, 2015)

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 ChampionshipsOther 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. 

The top eight teams in both the smallbore three-position and air rifle events were selected based on the average of the three highest regular-season aggregate scores with no more than one match at any given site. The average of the three highest scores was added to the aggregate scores from the designated qualifiers to determine the top eight teams.

A total of 48 competitors will compete in the championships, with 40 competitors coming from the top eight teams selected. The remaining eight competitors were selected based on the scores submitted from the designated qualifier.

Individual and team competitions in smallbore three-position (60 shots) will be held Friday, March 13. Individual and team competitions in air rifle (60 shots) will be held Saturday, March 14. The overall team champion will be determined by combining the smallbore and air rifle team total scores into one aggregate score for each institution.

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.   One of those excited to compete is National Junior Team member and Nebraska rifle sophomore Lauren Phillips (Seabeck, Washington).

“All of us here at Nebraska rifle are pretty pumped to be joining the rest of the top individuals and teams up there in the Great North, and we're looking forward to shooting alongside all of our brothers and sisters we've made through the regular season matches,” she said. “The Nanooks are known for hosting awesome NCAA championship events, and all of the excitement leading up to it is almost unbearable! This match isn't just the competition all of us college shooters look to during the season, but it's also the reunion of the family we've all created in our sport. To be able to join the ranks of the best individuals and teams in the country in Fairbanks is an honor.”

For seniors like Meredith Carpentier it’s about suiting up one final time with her Air Force Academy teammates and leaving it all on the range. “I feel honored to shoot with USAFA Rifle one last time,” the National Development Team member said. “The competition at this year's NCAAs is quite impressive and I am confident that we will rise to the occasion. While I am sad to say goodbye to collegiate shooting, I am truly proud of my team and all that we have accomplished in the past four years. That being said, my goal is to finish this season without any regrets. I will take each and every shot with the utmost care and confidence. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror knowing that I did all that I could to contribute to this historic season for my team.”

TCU freshman Mindy Miles competing during the Junior finals of the 2014 World Shooting Championships in Granada, Spain. Individually, the NCAA Rifle Championships will provide great intrigue and compelling competition.  Miles perfected the air rifle on February 7 during the Patriot Rifle Conference championships at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, becoming just the fifth person ever to record a perfect 600. Matt Rawlings from Alaska fired the first 600 in NCAA competition.  In 2010, West Virginia's Nicco Campriani shot a perfect 600. On Oct. 22, 2011 against Army, West Virginia's Petra Zublasing fired a 600. Former Horned Frog and 2012 Olympian Sarah Scherer is the last shooter to accomplish the feat doing so on Nov. 1, 2011 against Alaska.  Miles is the first freshman ever to accomplish the feat and is peaking at just the right time having shot a 595 or better in four matches in her freshman season, improving her score in each of her last five outings. Miles was a member of USA Shooting’s World Championship team this past September and made the Junior Air Rifle finals and finished seventh overall. 

The feat will be lofty for Miles and all other competitors.  Eleven of the top 13 Air Rifle finishers from the 2014 NCAA Rifle Championships are back to compete in 2015 including National Team member Connor Davis (Richland, Kentucky). 

"I am ecstatic to be competing with the most talented group of kids in the nation," said Miles. "Being a freshman, I'm coming in not knowing what to expect but looking forward to finding out. I'm looking forward to seeing how well my team will do and how our hard work will pay off."

While Davis will be a force in Air Rifle yet again, it’s in smallbore where the Wildcat junior shooter has really come into his own this season.  He boasts the top individual score in that discipline with the 592 he shot at Murray State on January 23 and has posted four scores of 587 or higher, tops among all competitors on the season. To earn the smallbore title, Davis will have to contend with reigning National Champion Sherry as well as nine of the top-12 finishers from last year.

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.

Team Qualifiers (Smallbore Three-Position and Air Rifle)
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Jacksonville State University
University of Kentucky
Murray State University
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
Texas Christian University
U.S. Air Force Academy
West Virginia University

Individual Qualifiers (Air Rifle)
Emily Capaul, University of Nevada, Reno
Matthew Chezem, University of Akron

Individual Qualifiers (Smallbore Three-Position)
Max Burkhardt, University of Memphis
Daniel Jonas, U.S. Naval Academy
Remington Lyman, The Ohio State University
Alison Weisz, University of Mississippi

Individual Qualifiers (Air Rifle and Smallbore Three-Position)
Drew Cheezum, The Ohio State University
Dacotah Faught, University of Tennessee at Martin

Categories: Press Releases