This season the Racer rifle team was represented at the NCAA Championships by a single shooter. Kelsey Emme, freshman from Piedmont, S.D., made the cut with an average air rifle score of 584 and a qualifying score of 590. Last Saturday she was the lone representative for the blue and gold.
While she learned to battle the nerves and worry inherent on such a big stage, Emme also came to value the importance of getting her entire team to that same stage next year.
“In a match like this, everything is magnified,” Head Coach Alan Lollar said. “I could tell she was fighting the nerves a little at the start but she settled down, stuck with the plan and shot a fine match. She trained hard all year to get here, competed hard and hung with the best in the country.”
“It was definitely a new experience, but a good one.” Emme said. “It was good to see all the shooters, just to have the top in the nation there and see them shooting against each other.”
Emme placed 10th with a score of 589, just one point outside the finals and over the course of the match had her share of frustration and first-year jitters.
“There were definitely nerves, but I’d been preparing for those for the past week,” Emme said. “I knew I was going to get nervous somewhere in there but I wasn’t sure when, so I just worked my way through it. In sighters I was shakey, but I just had to stop, calm myself down and reassess what I was doing and then it seemed to go better from there on.”
In addition to dealing with nerves, Emme had to adjust her expectations to fit the setting she was in.
“When you shoot a nine your next shot should always come back a 10, but I was shooting nine in pairs,” Emme said. “I’d shoot a nine and then another nine, but then a string of 12 10s after that. It was different to get used to. I just kept thinking that I can’t fix it now and move on to the next shot.”
At the end of the day, Emme’s score was both impressive and not quite impressive enough.
“I was happy, but also a little disappointed because I was only one point away from the finals,” she said. “It definitely felt good, though. Like I’d really accomplished a lot this season to work my way up there and competing next to the best in the country.”
Regardless of the final result, Emme left the NCAA with a drive to come back with her entire team in tow.
“I feel more of a drive to get the team there,” Emme said. “Before the NCAAs I was just excited that I made it as an individual but now I see the importance of having our team get there together. We were only 15 points away. That’s three points per person. I think we have that potential so long as we work hard and keep improving we have the potential to get in and be competitive in the NCAAs.”
However, Emme has not given up on coming back as an individual shooter.
“I’m definitely going to come back and just keep working and keep improving,” Emme said. “I know what to expect now, which has given me more drive.”