MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No.-1 ranked West Virginia University rifle team will shoot for a fifth straight title at the Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships, March 1-2, at Mississippi’s Patricia C. Lamar National Guard Readiness Center, in Oxford, Miss.
The Mountaineers (10-0, 7-0 GARC) will shoot the team smallbore relay on Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. ET, and the air rifle relay on Sunday at 9 a.m. ET. The individual finals will be held after team relays each day.
WVU owns a conference-best eight GARC championship and seven regular-season titles. The team earned its most recent regular-season title this year, making a perfect run in conference play.
“We’re very focused on ourselves,” says coach Jon Hammond. “This is just our next match that we want to compete well at. It’s a great opportunity and a fun weekend, and we’re excited for it.”
All nine conference teams will shoot at this weekend’s championships, including top-10 opponents No. 3 Kentucky, No. 4 Nebraska, No. 6 Memphis and No. 7 Army.
“There’s a lot of competition in our conference, but I definitely think Kentucky will be one of our biggest competitors,” Hammond says. “They’ve been ranked in the top three all season and held the No. 1 spot for a good part of it. Nebraska also has started to come up this semester, and they’ve been shooting some high scores. Every team will have the ability to shoot well this weekend.”
The Mountaineers most recently shot an NCAA Qualifying match at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range in Murray, Ky., on Feb. 22. They shot a team score of 4691, with 2325 smallbore and 2366 air rifle showings.
WVU averages a 4689 team aggregate this season, with 2365 and 2324 averages in air rifle and smallbore, respectively.
Junior Maren Prediger
, the 2013 GARC third-place air rifle finisher, paces the Mountaineers in the discipline with a 595 average. She has led the Mountaineers in 10 of 12 air rifle relays this season.
Sophomore Garrett Spurgeon
and junior Ziva Dvorsak
lead the Mountaineers in smallbore, sharing a 584 average. Spurgeon has led the team in the discipline eight times, while Dvorsak has led three times since joining the squad in January.
“It’s a great championship,” says Hammond. “It’s really nice to have it before the NCAA Championships, because it’s the strongest rifle conference in the country, and the format is a lot like the NCAA. Rifle shooters are creatures of habit, so it’s really good for them to get into this routine beforehand.”
Last year, the Mountaineers won their fourth straight GARC title and shot a two-day total of 4705 (2370 air rifle, 2335 smallbore). Kentucky finished second with a 4690 score, and Nebraska placed third with 4647.
Junior Thomas Kyanko
placed fourth in smallbore with a 684.4 total, while Spurgeon finished eighth with 677.6. Junior Meelis Kiisk
placed sixth overall in air rifle, scoring 691.0.
Of note, former Mountaineer Petra Zublasing won the smallbore title at last year’s championships with 696.4, and placed second in air rifle with 700.5.
“If we do well, we will look back at our accomplishments after the season,” Hammond explains. “It would be nice to see us take home a fifth title, but it would be better to see us improve individually.”
Conference award winners will be announced at a banquet Friday evening.