MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University rifle team is ranked No. 1 in today’s Preseason College Rifle Coaches Association (CRCA) Top 20 Poll.
The Mountaineers, the defending National Champions, earned 12 of the poll’s 16 first-place votes. WVU ended last season at No. 1 after winning its nation-best 15th NCAA title.
“It’s nice to have this recognition going in to a new season,” says eighth-year coach Jon Hammond. “We lost a world-class shooter in (graduate) Petra (Zublasing), but we still have a great core that returns this year, and we will field a team that has a lot of experience.
“While we appreciate this recognition from our peers, this team must be conscious of the fact that this is a new season, and we’re going to have to work hard to maintain that ranking and to improve as a team. I like starting the season at No. 1, but we’re prepared to work hard, too.”
Kentucky, the 2013 national runner-up, is ranked No. 2, while Alaska-Fairbanks is ranked No. 3. The Wildcats received three first-place votes, and the Nanooks earned one. TCU, the 2012 National Champion and last season’s third-place finisher, is No. 4, and Army is No. 5.
The bottom-half of the poll’s top 10 is: Nebraska, Air Force, Jacksonville State, Murray State and Ohio State.
WVU went 11-1 last season en route to winning its 15th national championship. In addition to earning the Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) and NCAA titles, the Mountaineers set the NCAA team (4720) and air rifle (2381) records. The squad also set a school smallbore (2348) record.
Five shooters with national championship experience return for WVU: juniors Taylor Ciotola
, Meelis Kiisk
, Thomas Kyanko
and Maren Prediger
, and sophomore Garrett Spurgeon
. All five earned National Rifle Association (NRA) All-America honors last season, with all but Kyanko collecting at least one first-team recognition. Also back for the Mountaineers are seniors Chance Cover
and Daniel Sojka
, and sophomore Patrick Sunderman
; Sojka and Sunderman earned NRA All-America awards last year.