MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –Behind a career-high score from freshman Morgan Phillips, the No. 2-ranked West Virginia University rifle team won its second straight NCAA smallbore title with a 2336 score, shot today at the 2017 NCAA Rifle National Championships at The Ohio State’s French Field House, in Columbus, Ohio.
The four-time defending National Champions, today’s victory is the third smallbore title for WVU under 11-year coach Jon Hammond. In addition to last year’s win, the Mountaineers (12-0, 8-0 GARC) previously earned the championship in 2014.
WVU owns a two-shot advantage over top-ranked TCU, who finished with a 2334 score. No. 3 Kentucky sits in third place with a 2331 total, and No. 3 Murray State follows in fourth place with a 2326 mark.
“Everyone was really consistent today,” Hammond said. “I’m sure some of our shooters we not hugely satisfied with their outcomes today, but they should be happy with their performances. They worked really hard. This is a match where every point counts, and it was a difficult day. They all battled through some nerves and worked their process, and that enabled us to have an overall good team score.”
Phillips paced the Mountaineers today and won the NCAA smallbore title with a 464.3 final showing. The Salisbury, Maryland, native is the second freshman in as many seasons to earn the title, as teammate Ginny Thrasher, today’s runner-up, won the 2016 title, while Petra Zublasing won the title in 2013. Today’s discipline win pushes the Mountaineers’ individual NCAA title count to 26.
“What an unbelievable performance from Morgan today,” Hammond noted. “Her match was awesome. It was not just the score, either - she worked her match and had a great overall performance. Morgan was super calm. There were nerves there, but she managed those and worked through them. She put her best effort forward throughout the day.”
Thrasher shot 459.8 in the final and finished just behind Phillips. The Mountaineers also took the top-two podium finishes at last year’s championships, as Meelis Kiisk finished second behind Thrasher.
“It was nice to see two Mountaineers in the finals today, and especially nice to see them as the last two standing,” Hammond added. “Ginny made Morgan work for the title and she pushed her throughout the final. I’m sure when you have an NCAA and Olympic champion shooting beside you, it brings out the best in you as well.”
Phillips entered the final in first place, as she shot a career-high 589 (198 kneeling, 199 prone, 192 standing). The Salisbury, Maryland, native previously shot 588 in a win against Memphis on Nov. 5.
TCU’s Rachel Garner tied Phillips for first in the open relay and finished fourth overall with a 430.8 mark.
Thrasher shot 584 in the day’s second relay and entered the final in fourth place. Included in her day’s total was a school-record matching 200 prone.
Freshman Milica Babic just missed qualifying for the final, shooting 583, a mark also shot by five additional shooters. She finished in ninth place based on center-shots.
Senior Jean-Pierre Lucas was the final Mountaineer to count toward today’s team score and finished in 22nd place with a 580 total. Additionally, junior Elizabeth Gratz shot 579 and placed 26th.
The Mountaineers return to French Field House tomorrow morning to shoot for their fifth straight and nation-best 19th title.
“We’ll relax this evening and look to restart tomorrow,” Hammond said. “We’ll keep the same routine as we’ve had the last few years. We have to treat tomorrow as a completely new day. We’ve been through this before, and we’ll approach tomorrow as a new match and focus on ourselves.”
The first air rifle relay will be at 10:15 a.m. Saturday morning, with the second relay to follow at 12:15 p.m. The air rifle final will start at 2:30 p.m.