MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With a significant lead built in day one at the Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships, the No. 2-ranked West Virginia University rifle team did its job today at the University of Akron’s Louis and Freda Stile Athletic Field House, shooting a winning 2384 air rifle and securing its eighth straight GARC Championship title with a 4725 total.
The Mountaineers’ (12-0, 8-0) earned their conference-best 12th GARC Championship title with a season-best effort in air rifle, matching a mark they previously shot in a win against Navy on Jan. 20, at the WVU Rifle Range. WVU has now shot an aggregate score of 4724 or better in four of its last six matches.
“Yesterday and today were both really solid performances from this team,” Mountaineer coach Jon Hammond said. “Today’s air rifle shooting was a great effort across the board. The scores have been very consistent, especially our overall team score. We’re shooting the same in different ranges and different environments, which is great to see this time of year.”
Sophomore Ginny Thrasher
, the 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist in the women’s 10m air rifle, won the GARC title with a 208.4 final score. The 2017 GARC Shooter of the Year, she is the fifth different Mountaineer shooter to win the conference air rifle title since 2010.
Thrasher was one of four Mountaineers to qualify for today’s final. The Springfield, Virginia, native, as well as junior teammate Elizabeth Gratz
, finished first in the open competition with 597 marks. Gratz, a native of Sigel, Illinois, shot 165.1 in the final and placed fourth overall.
Freshmen Milica Babic
, the 2017 GARC Rookie of the Year, and Morgan Phillips
also qualified for the final, as the duo finished tied for third place in the open competition with 595 scores, a season-best matching mark for Phillips. Babic placed sixth in the final with a 122.8 total, while Phillips shot 100.4 and placed seventh.
“It was great to see four Mountaineers in the final – that’s half the field,” Hammond noted. “It was really good to see Ginny win today. Elizabeth, Ginny and Morgan were the top-three overall shooters this weekend, and that really shows this team’s depth and consistency.”
Senior Jean-Pierre Lucas
, the fifth Mountaineer shooting toward the team scores, finished in a tie for 12th place with a 591 score.
No. 8 Nebraska finished second overall with a 4679 mark and also placed second in air rifle with a 2376 mark. No. 6 Kentucky finished third overall and in air rifle with respective scores of 4667 and 2361. No. 9 NC State shot 2356 today, good enough for fourth place, and finished fourth overall with a 4660 total.
The Mountaineers entered the day with a 30-shot advantage on the field, having shot a winning, 2341 smallbore mark yesterday. Phillips finished second in smallbore with a final score of 454.3. Thrasher shot 444.4 and placed third, while Gratz finished seventh with a score of 396.0.
WVU breaks from competition for the next two weeks while it prepares for the 2017 NCAA Rifle Championships. The Ohio State University plays host to the championships March 10-11, at French Field House, in Columbus, Ohio.
“We are going to take a rest for a few days before we get to our final preparation for the NCAA Championships,” Hammond concluded. “There is not a whole lot we need to change; we just need to keep working hard and smart.”