Season ends at NCAA qualifier

The Racer rifle team finished 10th overall, missing a trip to the NCAA Championships by two rankings. || Lori Allen/The News
The Racer rifle team finished 10th overall, missing a trip to the NCAA Championships by two rankings. || Lori Allen/The News

The Racer rifle team finished 10th overall, missing a trip to the NCAA Championships by two rankings. || Lori Allen/The News

The Racer rifle team season ended with the NCAA qualifier Feb. 16. The Racers were ranked 10th going into the NCAA qualifier hosted at Murray State’s Pat Spurgin Rifle Range. The top eight teams qualified for the NCAA championships hosted in Columbus, Ohio, in March.

The rifle team headed into the NCAA qualifiers coming off a loss to No. 1 ranked West Virginia. Just shy of the top three spots, the Racers placed fourth overall with an aggregate score of 4,587.

Jacksonville State led the pack with an aggregate of 4,664. The University of Nebraska and the University of Memphis shot team scores of 4,650 and 4,608, respectively. UT Martin and Columbus State were also in attendance, scoring 4,587 and 4,551, respectively.

Head Coach Alan Lollar said the team hasn’t been shooting to the best of its ability over the last month. Consistency and adaptability have been two major focuses of the rifle team this past season.

“I think we’re in a good position to move forward next season,” Lollar said. “I’m looking forward to watching the team grow and come back even stronger.”

Freshman Tessa Howald led the Racers with an overall score of 1,152. Howald has greatly improved throughout the season; she has led the Racers in individual aggregate score at three of their last four matches.

Overall, Howald said the team struggled throughout the weekend.

“I know I personally struggled throughout the match,” Howald said. “I would describe our team as dedicated. Everyone works really hard to push through in matches.”

Sophomore Kelsey Emme was also a strong contender for the Racers. Emme shot an aggregate score of 1,145, and junior Mikey Burzynski shot an aggregate of 1,142. Burzynski led the Racers in smallbore with a 577.

Howald and Emme led the Racers in air rifle with 584 and 580, respectively. Other crucial shooters included junior Billy Harvey, sophomore Marisca Mozeleski and freshman Kaitlyn Wilson. Harvey shot a 576 while, Mozeleski and Wilson shot a 573 in air rifle.

“I’m looking forward to working hard and training this summer,” Howald said. “Hopefully, I’ll be able to go to a few clinics.”

This season could best be described as a growing year, Lollar said.

He said the relatively young rifle team continues to improve and gain experience. With only one senior, Caroline Barber, graduating at the end of this season, the upcoming year looks promising.

The NCAA qualifier marks the end of the season for the rifle team. As of Wednesday, the Racers were ranked 14th nationally. Several of the shooters are currently training for the Colorado National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships in April.

Story courtesy of Laura Kovarik, Staff writer.