MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 2-ranked West Virginia University rifle team overcame a three-shot deficit and won its third straight Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) championship with a combined score of 4681, today, at Mississippi’s Patricia C. Lamar National Readiness Center, in Oxford, Miss.
The Mountaineers (12-2, 5-1 GARC) shot 2366 air rifle today for the discipline victory. The squad finished in second place in smallbore yesterday with a 2315 mark.
WVU is the only program to win three straight conference titles; the Mountaineers also won three consecutive championships from 1998-2000.
No. 4 Army sat in first place entering today’s air rifle relays with a score of 2318. No. 3 Kentucky, the defending national champion and the only conference squad to defeat the Mountaineers this season, was in third place (2313), and Nebraska was in fourth place (2313).
“Today was a close competition to watch,” says coach Jon Hammond. “Our first relay really got us off to a great start, and then the second relay came on strong and solidified the win. Everyone shot well and put forth a good effort.”
The Wildcats finished second overall with a 4675 score; the squad also placed second in air rifle with a 2362 mark. Nebraska finished third overall (4658), while Ole Miss placed third in air rifle (2351).
Junior All-American Petra Zublasing, the GARC 2012 Shooter of the Year, earned the first conference title of her career with a 702.7 air rifle score. The Appiano, Italy, native, shot 598 in the open relay and 104.7 in the finals for the victory; both marks were tournament bests.
“Petra was really motivated to win today,” Hammond explains. “After her third-place smallbore finish, she was determined to earn the title today.”
Zublasing’s win is the fifth air rifle championship for WVU, and the third straight, as former Mountaineer Nicco Campriani won the last two.
In addition to her air rifle victory, Zublasing finished first overall with an 1178 combined score.
Senior Justin Pentz and freshman Taylor Ciotola also shot in today’s air rifle finals. Pentz finished fifth overall with a 694.6 (591, 103.6) score, while Ciotola placed eighth with a 692.9 (591, 101.9) mark. Ciotola’s relay score was a personal best, while Pentz qualified for the finals with a season-high relay tally.
Ciotola also finished eighth in smallbore, and his two-day total of 1174, a personal best, was good enough for third place overall. Pentz placed seventh with an aggregate total of 1170.
Zublasing, Ciotola, Pentz and freshmen Thomas Kyanko (586) and Meelis Kiisk (583) combined for today’s team air rifle score.
Senior Michael Kulbacki paced the Mountaineers’ non-counters with a 587 air rifle mark. Freshman Amy Bock shot 583, while junior Chance Cover shot 580 in yesterday’s relay.
Kyanko finished fourth on the team with an 1159 aggregate total, while Kulbacki finished fifth (1157) and Kiisk finished sixth (1155).
“Overall, I think this weekend was really good for us,” says Hammond. “It’s always nice to win the conference title, but the pressure situations we faced were great prep for this year’s national championships.”
The Mountaineers now have two weeks to prepare for the 2012 NCAA Championships, held March 9-10, at Ohio State’s Converse Hall and French Field House, in Columbus, Ohio. WVU, the 2009 national champion, will be shooting for its nation-best 15th title.