MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 2-ranked West Virginia University rifle team outshot its next-closest opponent by 30 shots and finished first in smallbore with a 2341 score, today, at the 2017 Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships, inside the University of Akron’s Louis and Freda Stile Athletic Field House, in Akron, Ohio.
The Mountaineers’ (12-0, 8-0) mark, which equals their season average, delivered the team its second straight conference smallbore title.
WVU benefited from strong individual shooting, as four Mountaineers finished in the top nine and three – junior Elizabeth Gratz
, sophomore and GARC Shooter of the Year Ginny Thrasher
, and freshman Morgan Phillips
– advanced to the discipline final.
“I think today was a really solid effort,” 2017 GARC Coach of the Year Jon Hammond said. “We didn’t come in to today with expectations of how the other teams would shoot. Instead, we shot consistently to what we’ve been doing for the last month. We didn’t attain any personal bests, but everyone shot disciplined, and that ultimately led to a good team score. I’m definitely satisfied with today’s performance.”
Army West Point shot 2311 and finished in second place. No. 6 Kentucky finished in third place with a 2306 mark, while No. 9 NC State shot 2304 for a fourth-place finish. No. 8 Nebraska and Memphis are tied in fifth place with 2303 scores. Navy sits in seventh place with a 2295 mark, and Mississippi and the host Zips follow with matching 2286 scores.
Phillips, a native of Salisbury, Maryland, finished second in the final with a score of 454.3. Thrasher shot 444.4 and placed third, while Gratz finished in seventh place with a score of 396.0.
“It was great to have three shooters represent our team in the finals,” Hammond said. “They all had good matches today. It was especially nice to see Morgan finish second – she had a great result, and today should provide her with some confidence.”
NC State’s Lauren Phillips edged WVU’s Phillips for the smallbore title with a 456.7 score.
Though senior Jean-Pierre Lucas
tied for eighth place today with a 582 mark, he just missed qualifying for the final, as Army’s Payne Nunn finished with an advantage in center shots.
Freshman Milica Babic
, the GARC Rookie of the Year, was the final team counter today and tied for 13th place with a 578 score.
The Mountaineers return to the arena tomorrow for the air rifle competition. The first of three relays is scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m.
“We won’t think about this lead tomorrow,” Hammond concluded. “We’re going to regroup, reset and shoot the best air rifle we can. We won’t think about the conference championships or anything else. This team is full of competitors, and they all will want to do their best to make tomorrow’s final.”