The top collegiate rifle talent will vie for NCAA Championship glory this week at Ohio State University (OSU), March 9-10 at the Converse Hall and French Field House in Columbus. The undefeated Horned Frogs from Texas Christian University (TCU) look to upset the reigning champion Wildcats from the University of Kentucky (UK).
The following eight teams qualified (based on regular season aggregate scores) to compete in both air rifle and smallbore events: University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF), West Point Army, Jacksonville State, UK, West Virginia University, University of Nevada, University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) and TCU. On Friday, March 9, the three-position smallbore shooters (both team and individual competition) will shoot 60 shots. The next day, air rifle competitors will take the line for 60 shots as well. According to NCAA rules: “the overall team champion will be determined by combining smallbore and air rifle team scores into one aggregate score for each institution.”
The NCAA Rifle program has been in existence since 1980 and currently has 29 schools participating. USA Shooting has been the biggest beneficiary of the growth of the NCAA program with 15 of the 16 USA Shooting Rifle Team members having risen through the NCAA ranks.
“We are very excited to have the very best of the best in the collegiate shooting world visiting Columbus this week for the NCAA Championships,” commented Tournament Director James Ericson. “Especially in an Olympic year, there is great interest from the public in seeing the most outstanding athletes display their expertise. We are looking forward to a great weekend of competition.”
Collegiate members of the USA Shooting (USAS) National Team as well as National Junior and Development Teams will represent their respective alma maters in both individual and team events. TCU’s Sarah Scherer (Woburn, Mass.), a notable challenger for the individual title, recently qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team for Air Rifle in February. Scherer (pictured above) and the Horned Frogs took both individual and team titles in 2010 and look to finish their season on a high note. TCU teammate Sarah Beard (Danville, Ind.) is also a USAS National Team athlete as well as a 2012 Olympic hopeful. Beard looks to realize her Olympic dreams this June at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore.
Amanda Furrer (Spokane, Wash.) of the OSU rifle team will have the opportunity to compete on her home range in the individual championships. Furrer finished third overall in Women’s 50m Rifle Three Position at the 2011 USAS National Championships for Rifle and Pistol. Following this match, Furrer will move to Colorado to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in preparation for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Smallbore.
UK’s Emily Holsopple (Wilcox, Pa.) is the fourth National Team member that will compete this weekend in Ohio. Holsopple is the reigning silver medalist in Women’s 50m Rifle Three Position from the USAS National Championships in Rifle and Pistol. UK Teammate Ethan Settlemires (Walnut, Miss.), a member of the National Development Team, helped UK secure a second-place finish at the recent Great American Rifle Conference Championships (GARC).
WVU, a formidable team competitor, brings the talent of young Thomas Kyanko (Wellsburg, W.Va.) and Italy’s Petra Zublasing. Kyanko is a member of the National Junior Team and will compete at the 2012 National Junior Olympic Championships (NJOSC) in Colorado Springs in April. Zublasing will shoot both smallbore and air rifle for Italy in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
UAF, home to 2012 U.S. Olympic Team nominees Matt Emmons (Browns Mills, N.J.) and Jamie Gray (Beyerle) (Lebanon, Pa.), also qualified for a team spot at this year’s NCAAs. National Junior Team members Ryan Anderson (Great Falls, Va.) and Michael Liuzza (New Orleans, La.) will shoot for the Nanooks. Six weeks after the match in Ohio, both athletes will also compete at NJOSC.
Sam Muegge (Boling, Texas) of Jacksonville State University was named CollegeSports360.com’s Primetime Performer in the second week of February. Muegge, a member of the National Junior Team, led the Gamecock’s to the team’s sixth Ohio State Valley Conference Rifle Championship.
Dempster Christenson (Sioux Falls, S.D.) will shoot with the Wolf Pack of the University of Nevada. This will be Christenson’s fourth individual NCAA appearance and the team’s first bid since 2009. Christenson is a member of the National Junior Team. Fellow Junior Team member Michael Matthews (Johns Creek, Ga.) will shoot with the Army Team from West Point.
Ole Miss rifle athlete Abbey Stanec (Sharon Center, Ohio) will shoot for the individual air rifle title. Stanec, a National Junior Team member, and the Ole Miss Team finished fourth overall at GARC. Stanec, who was in the fifth position headed into the second round of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Airgun, skipped the second match to shoot with her team at GARC. Daniel Hermsmeier (Chesterfield, Mo.) will represent the University of Memphis in the individual air rifle competition. Hemsmeier is also a member of the National Junior Team.
“The NCAA’s are a great showcase for our up and coming talent,” said USA Shooting National Rifle Coach Major Dave Johnson. “The match has always been an intense event that many of our top future team members have experienced and grown from.”