Despite producing the individual winners in air rifle and smallbore, the rifle team finished second at the OVC Championships behind No. 4 Jacksonville State.
The Gamecocks finished as the OVC’s top team for the third straight season, outlasting the No. 11 Racers 4,650-4,638.
“I think we had our chances, but Jacksonville State is a good team and you have to do your best to beat the No. 4 team in the country,” Head Coach Alan Lollar said. “It was a close match and a competitive match and that’s all you can really ask for. It went down to the last day, the last relay and that’s what you hope for.”
Sophomore Tessa Howald was the standout of the tournament for Murray State, taking the individual championship in smallbore with a 582 and finishing second overall in air rifle.
“I feel like I’ve come along from the beginning of the year,” Howald said. “I’ve gotten through a lot of struggles. I was glad to shoot as well as I did throughout the weekend. I did struggle in air rifle a little bit, but I made up for it with what I shot in smallbore.”
Junior Kelsey Emme and freshman Katarina Bisercic were also key pieces to the Racers’ success.
Emme finished the tournament with an individual championship by shooting a 591 in air rifle, and she placed seventh overall in smallbore.
Bisercic finished third overall in air rifle and 16th in smallbore.
Lollar said even though the team did not finish the way it wanted, having two individual champions and quality outings from the whole team is a good sign.
“(Having two top finishers) says a lot about how close it was,” he said. “We had the top two shooters in each gun and the top three in air rifle. We had people that performed really well in the spotlight of the championships.”
The Racers welcome the No. 12 Rebels of Ole Miss to the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range Saturday before hosting the NCAA Qualifier round Feb. 22.
Lollar said the upcoming match against Ole Miss will be a good chance for the team to get on the same page before entering the final tournaments of the year.
“I think this week with Ole Miss coming in here is important for a couple reasons,” he said. “We’re still trying to come together and have our best day as a team on the same day, and I think this gives us another chance to get tuned up and get where we need to be mentally and emotionally.”
Story by Nick Dolan, Assistant Sports Editor