MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University rifle team finished with a team score of 4722 to finish in first place at the 2022-23 Great America Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships on Sunday afternoon at the WVU Shell Building in Morgantown.
The victory marks the 15th time in program history the Mountaineers have claimed the GARC Conference Tournament Championship.
The Mountaineers scored a third-place air rifle score of 2377, trailing Kentucky and Ole Miss who both notched 2379 marks. WVU entered the day with a nine-point lead over Ole Miss, producing the best smallbore score of 2345 during the opening day of action.
Senior Mary Tucker advanced into the air rifle finals, scoring a 599 during her relay, and then qualified for the air rifle championship shoot-off. There she produced a runner-up finish, falling to Kentucky’s Sofia Cecarello 17-11.
Her aggregate score of 1185 (586 SB – 599 AR) was the second-best in the field after earning the tiebreaker on centers. Tucker and Cecarello both produced 599 during their relays.
Ole Miss finished in second place at 4715, while Kentucky took third at 4714. Navy claimed fourth place with a 4698 as Akron rounded out the top-5 with a 4694.
Eight Mountaineers tallied a 590 or better in Sunday’s air rifle relays. Sophomore Natalie Perrin posted a 594, as junior Tal Engler, junior Molly McGhin and senior Calista Smoyer each recorded 593. Senior Akihito Shimizu, junior Matt Sanchez and fifth-year senior Verena Zaisberger finished just behind with a 592 total. Junior Becca Lamb finished the event with a 590.
Senior Malori Brown (588) and freshman Visnu Pandian (587) also competed in the air rifle relay.
“We are happy to win the conference championship this weekend, and having the individual smallbore champion and air rifle runner-up is a nice bonus,” WVU coach Jon Hammond said. “We know it wasn’t our best performance this weekend but hopefully it will help us with our preparations for the NCAA championship.”
Engler and McGhin join Tucker in the top 10 of aggregate individual scores. Engler produced an 1183 (590 SB – 593 AR) while McGhin shot an 1179 (586 SB – 593 AR). Engler claimed the smallbore title on Saturday and was awarded the high-point award for prone shooting in the discipline.
Shimizu (1179), Sanchez (1174), Zaisberger (1172), Brown (1171), Perrin (1167), Smoyer (1166) and Lamb (1163), competed across both days of competition to earn an aggregate score from smallbore and air rifle.
“We are now looking forward to the NCAA Championships and will turn our attention to that, and work on preparing the best we can. We are excited about that opportunity and looking forward to giving our best performance in two weeks,” Hammond added.
The Mountaineers will take a week off from competition before traveling to Akron, Ohio, from March 10-11, for the 2022-23 NCAA Rifle Championships. This year’s event is hosted by Akron and will take place at the James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron.
The Mountaineers qualified as the field’s second-ranked team with a qualifying mark of 9489.33. Joining WVU at this year’s championships are No. 1 TCU, No. 3 Alaska-Fairbanks, No. 4 Murray State, No. 5 Kentucky, No. 6 Ole Miss, No. 7 Nebraska and No. 8 Air Force.