The snow is melting and the sun is out for most, but not for the Racer rifle team. They received their bid to travel with seven other teams to Anchorage, Alaska for the NCAA Championships.
“I thought they did a fine job staying composed under a lot of uncertainty,” said Head Coach Alan Lollar.
After a week of changing traveling arrangements, the athletes were relieved to take their final shots and move into the NCAA Championships March 13-14.
Saturday the Racers faced UT Martin (mixed men and women), UT Martin (women) and the University of Memphis to compete for eight spots in the championships. Lollar said even though their training schedule had been wrecked from the weather and threatened to postpone or move the match, the team overcame all of its obstacles.
“I think we are in a good spot,” Lollar said. “We finished strong. We shot our spring average and were just a few points shy of our three match average. I thought we handled the pressure of the big match well and are ready for the next challenge.”
Among the schools traveling to Fairbanks will be Jacksonville State, West Virginia University and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks University. The Racers averaged a team score of 2,313.3 in smallbore and a 2,349.2 in air rifle. This finished the racers season with an aggregate score of 4,662.5. They are currently tied with UAF for the second most appearances in the NCAA with this being their 29 time.
“It’s exciting for the team because a lot of them have never been to (Alaska),” Lollar said. “It’s about a 15-hour trip so if they can get past the exotic place and big distractions then I think they’ll do just fine.”
The Racers will travel to compete in Alaska where alumna and current Alaska Budget Director, Pat Spurgin-Pitney resides. Lollar said throughout the season he keeps in touch with Pitney about the players.
Pitney is a 1984 Gold Medalist in the air rifle category, a 1983 three time gold medalist in the Pan American Games, a NCAA champion for Murray State and an eight-time All-American in both air rifle and smallbore. Murray State’s current rifle range is named in honor of Pitney.
“I expect she will definitely be there,” Lollar said. “She has always supported us and I look forward to seeing her there.”
The whole team has their sights set on the championships, but for one senior, Kelsey Emme, this will be her last chance at another win.
“As the man said, ‘I have not sufficient flow of speech’ when it comes to talking about what (Kelsey) has meant to this program,” Lollar said. “She has been a real leader that I have counted on. She has helped shape Racer rifle for the future.”
Emme has been to the NCAA Championships twice before this year and one thing Lollar said he thinks she has missed is being able to share the experience with her teammates, which she will be able to do this year.
“She’s had her goals set for this and has worked hard for it,” Lollar said. “I think it says a lot about her and the team. Everyone is supportive of each other and the fact that the team is close like a family is good.”
Lollar said the team is preparing just as they would for any other match. They begin their journey March 13-14 for Fairbanks, Ala. to compete for the NCAA Championship title.
Story by Kelsey Randolph, Assistant Sports Editor