NCAA Rifle: West Virginia wins fourth consecutive championship
AKRON, Ohio – For the fourth straight year, the West Virginia rifle team will bring hardware home to Morgantown, as the No. 1-ranked Mountaineers finished first at the 2016 NCAA Championships with a 4703 score, shot at Akron’s Louis & Freda Stile Athletics Field House.
Riding a comfortable eight-shot lead into today’s competition after shooting a winning 2338 smallbore mark yesterday, the Mountaineers clinched their latest National Championship with a winning 2365 air rifle score.
WVU captured the NCAA smallbore and air rifle team titles for only the second time under 10-year coach Jon Hammond; the squad first achieved the feat in 2014.
“I am really proud of the team, and I am glad that we were able to come out on top at the end of the weekend,” Hammond said. “It’s awesome. It’s such a huge credit to the team. This is one of the best teams that we have ever had. Their strength all year has been their consistency, and to be able to win both events is a great achievement. It is a great feeling to do that and to take away all three trophies.”
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In addition to today’s team victories, freshman Ginny Thrasher made it a clean sweep in the individual competition, as she captured the NCAA air rifle title with a 208.8 final score. The Springfield, Virginia, native shot a team-best 593 in the open relay.
Thrasher becomes the second Mountaineer ever, and the first since Petra Zublasing in 2013, to sweep the individual NCAA titles. A WVU female shooter has now won three of the last four NCAA air rifle titles, as Maren Prediger finished in first place at the 2015 NCAA Championships.
Including her smallbore title yesterday, earned with a 461.5 final score, Thrasher, the 17th WVU shooter to capture an individual NCAA championship, pushes the Mountaineers’ overall count to 25 titles.
“Ginny has had an amazing year,” Hammond noted. “As a staff, we knew that she was capable of this. She went to almost every final that we have had in practice. It’s ridiculous. Two weeks ago at GARCs (the Great American Rifle Conference Championship), she won the GARC smallbore championship and was second in air rifle. Her commitment to her process has been amazing. She is such a hard worker, and she deserves everything she has earned.”
For her efforts all weekend, Thrasher earned the NCAA Championships’ Top Performer Award.
“It feels amazing,” Thrasher said of her championship experience. “I am so happy to be here. I am so happy that we won the team championship. I am glad to have the team behind me and to have great support from our coaching staff, led by coach Jon Hammond. The fact that this started with our senior class right now, I am happy that I can help them come full circle.”
Today’s team title, captured with the second-highest score ever shot at an NCAA Championships, is the fifth under Hammond. The only team in school history to win an NCAA title, the Mountaineers have now won 18 National Championships since 1983. WVU is the first program to win four straight NCAA titles since Alaska-Fairbanks won four from 2001-04.
No. 3-ranked TCU finished second with a 4694 score, while No. 2 Murray State shot 4690 and placed third.
Five Mountaineers combined for the team’s scores this weekend, with Thrasher finishing with a team-best 593 (99, 98, 98, 99, 99, 100) in air rifle today. Senior Garrett Spurgeon shot 592 and just missed the final cutoff in ninth place. Classmates Meelis Kiisk and Patrick Sunderman rounded out the team score with a pair of 590 marks, good enough for a 12th-place tie. Of note, senior Michael Bamsey added a 587 mark.
WVU, the seven-time reigning Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) champions, finished the 2015-16 campaign with a 12-0 overall record and an 8-0 conference mark for the team’s third straight undefeated season.
This weekend’s championship was the career finale for Bamsey, Kiisk, Spurgeon and Sunderman.
“All four of our seniors have been incredible,” Hammond concluded. “Having four seniors is unusual for a team, but it definitely gave us a lot of experience. They all have amazing stories, and I am just happy to be a part of them.”