March 13, 2010

By Troy Phillips

Special to NCAA.com

FORT WORTH, Texas - The tradeoff wasn't a bad one for TCU freshman Sarah Beard.

In exchange for being the designated trophy holder, which requires two hands, Beard's TCU Horned Frog hand symbol was barely visible as photographers snapped away.

Oh well, whatever.

Beard's four teammates made the point for her, as she and the Frogs posed Saturday after winning their first NCAA Rifle team championship on their home floor at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

"I'm still pretty shocked," Beard said. "We've worked hard to all shoot well on the same day. I guess we picked the right day to do it."

TCU won its first NCAA team title since the 1983 women's golf team. TCU had football national titles in 1935 and '38. In 31 years of the NCAA awarding titles in the coed sport of rifle, the Horned Frogs are the first all-women's team to win it all.

Entering Saturday's air rifle portion, TCU was second overall behind all-male Alaska-Fairbanks in the team standings, trailing by six points. The Nanooks won Friday's team smallbore (.22 caliber) portion, but Frogs freshman Sarah Scherer had won the smallbore individual title.

With TCU breathing down its neck all weekend, Alaska-Fairbanks fell behind after the first air rifle relay, or preliminary round. TCU freshman Caitlin Morrissey and senior Erin Lorenzen shot scores of 593 and 590, respectively, out of a possible 600 points (60 shots, 10 points maximum each).

That combined 1,183 points pushed TCU ahead of Alaska-Fairbanks by 15 points with one relay to go. In that final prelim, TCU's Scherer and Beard then shot 591 and 587 to leave no doubt.

"One or two people can shift the dynamic of an entire team," Alaska-Fairbanks coach Dan Jordan said of TCU winning with two seniors and three freshmen. "It happened a few years ago for us when we won with all freshmen and sophomores. Obviously, they brought in a great class that helped them win this."

TCU (4,675 points) won in its fourth NCAA appearance after previous finishes of third, fifth and fifth. Alaska-Fairbanks was second with 4,653 points, followed by 14-time NCAA champion West Virginia at 4,641.

TCU's 2,361 points in air rifle earned it the NCAA team title in that specialty, giving the Frogs three rifle championships in one weekend (two team, one individual). Columbus (Ga.) State's Jonathan Hall won the individual air rifle championship with a composite score of 699.9.

Hall and Mississippi's Keely Stankey co-led with a 595 in the air rifle relay, easily making the eight-shooter final. There, Hall's score of 104.9 on 10 shots bested his seven co-finalists. Hall was the only male finalist.

Both Hall and Stankey (sixth overall) were inconsequential to TCU's team finish, as both shot as individuals without an accompanying team. Kentucky's Ashley Jackson finished second in the individual air rifle after winning a one-shot tiebreaker against TCU's Lorenzen, who was third.

"They had to put [Friday's smallbore] behind them," sixth-year Frogs coach Karen Monez said. "That's another day, and you have to perform on the second day to be called a championship team. This is a tough match, and I'd compare it to a world-level competition.

"You're not just shooting for yourself. The team is depending on you to perform at your best. That's a lot of pressure, and a lot of freshmen haven't been in that situation. It usually takes a year to learn how to handle it, so I'm really proud of them."

Monez, a former world and national champion in the air rifle, took over TCU's program when it had virtually no name recognition in college shooting. She was a first-time coach relying on her background as a competitor, but her connections in national and youth programs helped build an NCAA champion in a short time.

At TCU, a private school known more for recent football and women's basketball success, along with an emerging baseball program, Monez joined a short list of Frogs coaches to collect NCAA-title hardware.

"It means everything to these girls to have that title," Monez said. "Taking home that NCAA trophy, that's the ultimate. I know how hard it is to step out there and try to shoot 60 perfect shots in two hours. Mentally, you've got to have your 'A' game. I was rooting for them so hard, and so nervous the whole time."