MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -
For redshirt-freshman Jean-Pierre Lucas
, being a member of the West Virginia University rifle team is a dream come true.
The Speers, Pa., native did not think twice about becoming a Mountaineer. Arriving at WVU in the fall of 2012, he joined the rifle club team. Lucas dedicated himself to improving his shot and eventually was able to join the 2013 National Champion Mountaineers last January.
“I was going to come to WVU no matter what,” Lucas said. “I worked harder than I’ve ever worked to get on the team, and it’s something I’m really proud of.”
Coach Jon Hammond attributes Lucas’ success to his work ethic and desire. He described the redshirt season as important because it set a critical foundation at the range for Lucas before he officially began competing.
“I would struggle to find another athlete on the team who is as passionate and works as hard as him,” praised Hammond. “He sets an example for others on the team, even as a freshman, and shows that with hard work there is a lot you can accomplish in this sport.”
Although Lucas shows outstanding dedication, he attributes his success to coach Hammond and his own father, Pierre. Both professional shooters, Lucas described how well the two can relate to the demands of the sport and understand how important shooting is for him.
“Jon and my dad can relate to all the pressure I’m under,” said Lucas. “They’re both great people and great shooters. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my father, and I wouldn’t be at the level I’m at if it wasn’t for Jon.”
Lucas has found his niche on the team and in the sport, constantly scoring higher marks and shooting at larger competitions. He averages marks of 575 in smallbore and 583 in air rifle.
Lucas shot at the USA Shooting Winter Air Gun Championships in December, placing 14th overall, and was selected for the 2014 Bavarian Air Gun Championships at the junior level. He will travel to Munich, Germany, for the championship this week, and will compete Jan. 23-26.
Lucas said that getting the experience at larger matches has been crucial, and that it will help him going forward this season. The pressure of the larger matches and competing in their finals, Lucas says, will make season matches that much easier.
“He’s getting used to the matches now, and he’s shown great improvement,” Hammond explained. “He’s come a long way quickly.”
The rookie’s best showing (1168) was at the Mountaineers’ last competition on Jan. 19, when WVU defeated Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) foe NC State, 4707-4604. Lucas shot a personal-best 585 in smallbore and 583 in air rifle, one shot short of his career high. However, he knows he can still improve his scores.
“I’m still not happy with how I’ve shot in the matches so far,” Lucas said. “The team is doing really well and that’s all that matters, but I think we all want to improve individually. I’m going to work really hard to do that.”
While Lucas is overseas competing, the No. 3-ranked Mountaineers will travel to the Winthrow Invitational in Murray, Ky., on Friday, and No. 10 Memphis on Saturday.