This season had its fair share of ups and downs; it’s been a time of growth, a time of change and a chance the Racer Rifle to add depth to its shooting lineup.
Kicking off the season with a home match against UT Martin and Columbus State on Sept. 30, the Racers set the bar high with a win. The team had a 4,625 aggregate score. The young team consisted of one senior, two junior, three sophomore and four freshmen shooters.
The team hit the road and traveled to the University of Mississippi on Oct. 5 for its first away match. An aggregate score of 4,621 pushed the Racers to work harder and more diligently in practice. Nerves and traveling as a team for the first time seemed to play a role in the outcome.
Consistency and adaptability were the two main focuses of the team this year. The Racers struggled to gain footing in the OVC. Despite early struggles, the team has improved greatly throughout the season, gaining experience, knowledge and consistency. This growth is reflected in the scores.
This year of transition has been challenging, but the Racers have been able to persevere and will ultimately be rewarded with a well-versed and more talented team next season. With only one shooter graduating this year, the team will remain solid in its shooting skills.
“I think altogether everyone has learned a lot; I like to see this season as a building block,” Assistant Coach Ashley Rose said. “This year has been more of a foundation year. When you only have two or three shooters that have traveled before, it makes a big difference.”
Individually, each shooter contributed to the success of this past season. The 11th-ranked Racers remained a strong contender in the OVC.
Sophomore Kesley Emme has been a solid shooter and leader all year.
Emme traveled to Germany to compete in the Bavarian Airgun Championships in January.
Freshman Tessa Howald and Emme have both been named the Murray State Pepsi Athlete of the week throughout the past season.
Junior Bill Harvey was named Adidas OVC Rifle Athlete of the Month in smallbore for November. Harvey has been a solid contender in smallbore all year for the Racers. He shot his season’s best, a 584, at the University of Kentucky against the United States Army.
The Racers ended the season strong with a second-place finish at the OVC championships on Feb 2.
With an aggregate score of 4,587, the team placed behind the Jacksonville State Gamecocks. Jacksonville took home the title with an aggregate score of 4,653.
This marked the sixth time the Racers faced the Gamecocks this year. Emme was the sole Racer to be named to the All-OVC Air Rifle First Team.
Highlights from championships include Howald earning OVC Rifle Freshman of the Year, OVC All-Newcomer Team and All-OVC Second Team in air rifle.
Senior Caroline Barber and junior Michael Burzynski were also selected to the All-OVC Second Team in air rifle.
Freshman Kaitlyn Wilson made All-Newcomer teams in both smallbore and air rifle. Burzynski and Harvey were also named to the All-OVC Second Team in smallbore alongside teammate Emme.
Back in action one week after the championships, the team traveled to West Virginia on last Saturday to shoot one more match before NCAA qualifiers on Saturday.
The 11th-ranked Racers scored 4,628-4,700 against the Mountaineers. The first-ranked West Virginia team dominated the range.
Despite being a freshman shooter, Howald has been a strong and consistent shooter for the Racers all season.
Howald led the Racers at West Virginia with an overall score of 1,161. Scoring one point behind Howald, Emme shot a 1,160 aggregate score.
“I think the team overall has done really well: we’ve grown a lot and become much closer as the season has gone on,” Howald said. “Some things I’ve been working on are breathing and remaining calm on the range.”
Burzynski has also been a strong shooter all year for the Racers. Burzynski shot a 583 in air rifle. His overall season-best air rifle score was 588 against Alaska Fairbanks, last Sunday.
The season will come to a close, where it began at Pat Spurgin Range on Saturday.
Story by Laura Kovarik, Staff writer.