The No. 10 ranked Murray State rifle team had a successful open in the first weekend of the Withrow Open. This marks the last competition in which the Racers will compete before the OVC championships.
Hosted at Murray State’s own Pat Spurgin Rifle Range, the Withrow Open is divided into two weekends to accommodate the large number of entries. UT Martin, Jacksonville State and Akron were the teams shooting alongside the Racers during the first weekend of the tournament.
While scores aren’t finalized, as many shooters have yet to shoot on, the Racers had an overall strong team score in smallbore score of 2,295 and a team air rifle score of 2,319.
This week presented a different team dynamic for the Racers as arguably one of their best shooters, sophomore Kelsey Emme, is in Germany for the Bavarian Air Gun Championships. Emme will return and continue preparing for the OVC championships with her fellow Racers after the Withrow Open.
Head Coach Alan Lollar said many of his shooters really stepped up and brought their best.
Freshman Tessa Howald led her team in smallbore and air rifle with a score of 584 and 590 respectively. Junior Mikey Burzynski remained consistent throughout the weekend with the second-highest smallbore score of 575 and the third-highest air rifle score with a 579. Freshman Kaitlyn Wilson shot a solid score of 71 in smallbore and had the Racers’ second-best air rifle score with a 581.
Consistency has been the focus of this relatively young Racer rifle team. Lollar said he’s been impressed overall by this team’s ability to persevere and train hard. The Racers had an overall team score of 4,614, just a few points behind Jacksonville State, which shot a 4,630. The team is still awaiting one more air rifle shooter.
UT Martin Men and Women’s team trailed with a 4,579, Akron shot a 4,576, and UT Martin women 4,436. The Withrow Open marks the sixth time that the Racers and Gamecocks have competed. Practice and preparation for the OVC championships become the main focus for the Racers as the Withrow Open winds down.
“Right now we are working on finding the best way to gain more points,” Lollar said. “This may mean fixing and tweaking some things in practice, developing a different strategy for how we are going to shoot the match or simply increasing confidence in the team.”
The rifle team’s maturity and confidence has increased throughout the season and this has been reflected in their increase in consistency and scores. So far the Racers’ season best was shot at Alaska Fairbanks on Jan. 10.
Story by Laura Kovarik, Staff writer.