More than half the members of the USA Shooting Rifle Team returning from the World Shooting Championships in Granada, Spain will hop right back on the line with their respective collegiate rifle teams as NCAA Rifle action gets underway.
Fourteen of the 29 rifle athletes on the World Championship team currently (or will) shoot for NCAA rifle programs this season; including NCAA Smallbore Champion Tim Sherry (Highlands Ranch, Colorado) of the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, NCAA Air Rifle Champion Connor Davis (Shelbyville, Kentucky) of the University of Kentucky and Garrett Spurgeon (Canton, Missouri), who finished in 11th place in Men’s Junior Three-Position Rifle at the World Championship. His West Virginia Mountaineers claimed a second consecutive National Championship earlier this year with a record-setting 4,705 points.
The Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association (CRCA) recently released their pre-season poll, ranking defending NCAA Champion West Virginia No. 1, followed by Alaska-Fairbanks, Kentucky, Nebraska and Texas Christian University (TCU) to round out the top five schools.
In addition to Spurgeon, the West Virginia squad retains its Championship core from the 2013-14 season, including 2012 Olympian Ziva Dvorsak of Slovenia and Maren Prediger of the German National Team. Another Mountaineer shooter to watch is freshman Elizabeth Gratz (Sigel, Illinois). Gratz won silver at the 2013 Bavarian Airgun Championships and placed fourth at this year’s National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships.
Last season’s runner-up Alaska-Fairbanks will host the 2015 NCAA Championship March 13-14 and they’ll be returning with some strong shooters on the roster with USA Shooting Team ties, including Sherry, Air Rifle National Champion Ryan Anderson (Wasilla, Alaska), Sagen Maddalena (Groveland, California) and Lorelie Stanfield (Fairbanks, Alaska). Stanfield finished in fourth place in the Women’s Junior Prone Rifle event at World Championships.
Third in the poll and last season’s third-place team Kentucky returns three of five starters from the 2013-2014 squad. Leading the way will be World Championship team members Davis and 2014 Women’s Junior Air Rifle National Champion Sonya May (Rockland, Massachusetts), who were also the top-two team competitors for Kentucky a year ago.
Fourth-ranked Nebraska finished the 2013-14 season with an overall record of 24-9, including a fifth-place finish at the 2014 NCAA Championships. This season, the team returns eight shooters, including senior Kelsey Hansen and All-Americans, Denise Martin, Rachel Martin and World Championship team member and Women’s Junior Three-Position Rifle National Champion Lauren Phillips (Seabeck, Washington).
Incoming TCU freshman Minden Miles (Weatherford, Texas) should bolster the traditionally-strong TCU program, following her eighth-place finish in Women’s Junior Air Rifle at the World Championship. Her collegiate teammate, sophomore Katie Bridges (Kingsland, Texas), also had a strong showing at Worlds with a bronze medal win in Women’s Junior 50m Prone Rifle.
Other teams in the poll that will be strengthened by World Championship team members are the University of Tennessee at Martin, North Carolina State University and The Ohio State University. Air Rifle National Champion Dacotah Faught (Amenia, North Dakota), who shoots for UT-Martin, just shot a school record of 584 in smallbore at their match at tenth-ranked Murray State this past weekend. Lucas Kozeniesky (Southern Pines, North Carolina), who led the NC State Wolfpack in air and smallbore average a season ago should be a force in the 2014-2015 season, as well as All-American Remington Lyman (Meriden, Connecticut) for his sixth-ranked Ohio State squad.
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. USA Shooting 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.
For more information about the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association, visit their website at http://www.rjr3p.com/crifletiki/tiki-index.php?page=HomePage.
2014 CRCA Preseason Top-20
1. West Virginia
6. Ohio State
7. Air Force
8. Jacksonville State
10. Murray State
12. Ole Miss
13. NC State
14. UT Martin
18. Columbus State
19. Morehead State
For more information about NCAA Rifle, please visit their website: http://www.ncaa.com/sports/rifle.
Jessica Delos Reyes
Image courtesy USA Shooting