March 13, 2010

By Troy Phillips
Special to

FORT WORTH, Texas - Amanda Furrer had a dual distinction at Friday's NCAA Rifle Championships: Being a one-person team for Ohio State and carrying the top NCAA qualifying score this season in her specialty, smallbore rifle.

Some might call that pressure. For a world-class shooter whose sport had helped her traverse several continents before ever enrolling at Ohio State, Furrer might call it another high-level competition on a bottomless resume.

Friday's NCAA smallbore (.22 caliber) finals didn't end the way Furrer expected - she finished seventh overall - but the Buckeye freshman left ample evidence that she'll remain a force in collegiate rifle and international women's shooting, too.

A four-year member of the United States junior national team and an alternate for the U.S. at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Furrer won Friday's fourth and last preliminary shoot, or relay, with an overall 582 out of a possible 600 (60 shots, maximum score of 10 on each). Her score of 391 after 40 shots was the day's best of the four relays and catapulted her into the finals.

Furrer matched her season average of 582 and was the shooter to beat after carrying an NCAA-best (women or men) qualifying score of 590 into the championships. Her aim didn't hold up in the 10-shot smallbore final, but it's better than even money she'll get three more chances before leaving Ohio State.

She has U.S. team tryouts for the World Championships in August in Munich, Germany, as well as an upcoming U.S. Junior Olympics event in Colorado. Before next winter, Ohio State coach Pat Cherry plans to keep building a team around Furrer and hopefully qualify a full squad for the NCAAs in 2011.

"Her worst this season was in the 570s, and she was sicker than a dog that day," Cherry said. "For most shooters you talk to, [the NCAA Championships] is the hardest match they'll ever shoot. They become more relaxed in their later years. With Amanda, she's been all over the world, almost made the Olympics, won World Cup events...this is more of a normal match for her."

Furrer's father, Mike, says she's reviled in some parts of Europe for outshooting older competitors in a sport that for many in those countries is a full-time career.

"They hate her over there," Mike Furrer said of the Czech Republic and Germany, where strong results have helped Amanda reach 36th in the world in women's smallbore. "They make a life out of it, and the little 105-pound girl is competing with them."

Furrer's trademark has become finishing a shoot strong, especially if she's struggles early. She fell behind at the 2007 Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro before shooting a 197 out of 200 at the kneeling and final position to capture the bronze medal.

On Friday, Furrer couldn't overcome six 9's and an 8 in her first seven shots, but finished with three consecutive 10s. Her final attempt was her best, a center shot.

"I wasn't nervous at all, but it didn't go right," she said. "Maybe next year. You can't always shoot your best. It wasn't my best result, but you can still learn from it. I'm not done with those 590s for now. I still have more of those in me."

For Ohio State, which has offered rifle scholarships for only three years, Furrer is the kind of shooter who might attract more like her as they ascend the youth ranks. Cherry, the Buckeyes' coach since 1989, for now sees Furrer as one of a kind.

"She's fabulous," Cherry said of Furrer's progress in one college season. "We didn't expect her to be anywhere but here. We're building to get a team around her and add more good shooters. Somebody has to make me look like a great coach."