Story by Alec Mullins, Contributing writer
The Murray State Rifle team can be found practicing at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range shortly after sunrise, a strategy that Alan Lollar, the team’s Head Coach, uses to help his shooters remain focused.
Coming off a strong 2015 season, the rifle team is once again proving themselves to be a top contender, not only in the Ohio Valley Conference, but the NCAA as well.
After three years of missing a chance to compete for an NCAA championship, the Racers placed second in the OVC championship and earned an NCAA bid.
Traveling across the country to Fairbanks, Alaska, the Racers fell short of their first place goal, finishing eighth overall. Not being ones to rest on their laurels, many members of the team prepared themselves for different activities in the months to come, events like the National Junior Olympics and U.S.A Shooting National Championships.
Sharpshooters Ben Estes and Ivan Roe had excellent outings at the 2015 National Junior Olympic Championships hosted by USA Shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At this event the duo posted scores of 2318 and 2302, respectively.
Estes went on to compete at U.S.A.S. National Championship and the Global level as well, representing the U.S. in Suhl, Germany participating in Men’s Prone, Air and Three-Position Rifle Junior Olympic events.
“The international experience was great for Ben, we love to place our guys in positions where they have to adapt,” Lollar said.
Even with a year’s worth of experiences and learning behind them, nothing changes from last year Lollar said.
“We believe in a standard of performance everyday, that is doing things the best you can every day in practice. ” Lollar said.
Approaching the sport this way allows the team to deal with the match day adjustments no matter where they are or what problems arise.
“When practice days become game days, the effort and consistency you put forth definitely shows,” Lollar said.
Rifle opens their season in an interesting fashion Aug. 27 at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range when UT Martin comes to town for what will be informally known as a “family” game.
This is due to UT Martin’s assistant Head Coach Bob Beard being a Murray State alumni and member of the Murray State Athletic’s Hall of Fame for his part in the rifle team’s 1966 third place NCAA National finish.
The Racers will also face Morehead State and Jacksonville State this season in widely competitive conference play and while the OVC will be tough, the Racers face a few notable out of conference opponents in the University of Memphis and the University of Kentucky.
Though individual Racers have had success in recent months, the team’s focus is still to improve all areas of the team Estes said.
Both Estes and Roe agreed that a major focus of the season should be building upon team chemistry and ensuring that every member is working hard and making progress.
This mindset has lead to an outstanding performance over the last calendar year, and that train does not look to be slowing down any time soon.
The entire community is invited to watch the team compete at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range any time the team is there, though seating accommodations are limited, Rifle matches can be viewed online at GoRacers.com.
“We’re grateful for all the support the student body gives us and we appreciate everything we hear,” Lollar said.