Well-placed efforts and execution placed the Racers second at the 2013 OVC Championships.
The No. 11 Racers were one of six teams competing. Leading the pack from day one, Jacksonville State was able to hold on to its lead and clench a first-place title.
The top three teams were Jacksonville State, Murray State and Morehead State, with team top aggregate scores of 4,653, 4,587 and 4,540 respectively.
The relatively young rifle team has had its fair share of challenges and triumphs along the road to the championships. Consistency and patience have been two major components of the Racers’ training regiment. The team was able to finish on a high note thanks to several key shooters.
The Racers shot their season best at Alaska Fairbanks in January.
The positive trend and increase in scores prevailed throughout the spring season.
Sophomore Kelsey Emme has led the team through the 2012-2013 season, and championships were no exception. Emme shot a 569 in smallbore and a 585 air rifle, and she was the only Racer to be named to the All-OVC Air Rifle First Team.
Freshman Tessa Howald stepped up and shot a solid 555 in smallbore and a 578 air rifle. Howald was named OVC Rifle Freshman of the Year, made OVC All-Newcomer Team, and was selected second team All-OVC in air rifle.
Teammates, senior Caroline Barber and junior Mikey Burzynski were also selected as second team All-OVC in air rifle. Burzynski and Barber shot a 579 and a 582 in air rifle respectively.
Howald said controlling emotions and remaining calm during the competition is something the team has been working on all year.
“I think overall we struggled with different things, but we were able to persevere,” Howald said.
Freshman Kaitlyn Wilson made All-Newcomer teams in both smallbore and air rifle.
Burzynski and junior Bill Harvey were also named to the All-OVC Smallbore Second Team in smallbore alongside teammate Emme.
Rifle not only takes extreme mental focus but it is also physically exhausting, Howald said.
“It’s all about being a smarter shooter, not necessarily better,” Howald said. “Having the same mental and technical effort in each position is important, and trying not to let my emotions override everything else.”
Head Coach Alan Lollar was complimentary of all his shooters and their hard work this season. With this year of experience under its belt, the team will continue to mature and improve, Lollar said.
“The past season has been pretty up and down, and we haven’t been as consistent as we need to be,” he said. “I think we’ve gotten a lot better along the way and gained experience. This is a really good bunch of shooters. They are just all young at the same time, and they’ll all mature in their technique and skills together and be very good.”
Lollar looks forward to finishing up the rest of the spring season strong. The coach also has high hopes for the upcoming season.
“We’re always pushing to try to shoot matches like the way we train,” Lollar said. “Patience has probably been the biggest challenge over the course of this season. Understanding that it takes time to figure things out and adapting to college.”
The Racers will travel to West Virginia to take on the Mountaineers Feb. 5. NCAA qualifiers are just around the corner and they will be held at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range on Feb. 16.
Story by Laura Kovarik, Staff writer.