Story by Sarah Combs, Staff writer
The Murray State Rifle team ranked third in the country after a win in the NCAA Rifle Championship in Akron, Ohio.
The Racers improved five spots since last years’ national appearance finishing eighth. The team exceeded the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association expectations finishing third this year after being ranked sixth in the 2015 CRCA preseason poll.
The team’s potential didn’t go unnoticed as the year proceeded. The team moved up one spot to be ranked fifth after defeating UT Martin in their season opener. A month later after other teams competed, the Racers moved to the fourth spot, shooting a school record of 2,341 in smallbore and 4,693 for their overall score.
The Racers tied West Virginia for first place in the CRCA Top 20 rankings and broke their own school record set a week earlier against the University of Kentucky with 2,368 smallbore, 2,366 air rifle and 4,717 aggregate.
The tie with West Virginia marked Alan Lollar’s first experience holding a top spot on the CRCA Top 20 rankings.
West Virginia won their fourth consecutive championship with 4,703. Texas Christian University finished second with 4,694 and Murray State logged 4,690.
The Racers came within 13 points of a National Championship.
The team brought home an extensive list of accomplishments including All-American, academic and individual awards.
It’s hard to deny the positive influence that a great coach can have on a team. Lollar led his team to set several records throughout the 2015-16 year, won the 2016 OVC Championship and delivered a performance that landed them a third place in the nation. A fair amount of this team’s success can be attributed to Lollar who received the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association’s National Coach of the Year.
Not only did the Racers have the knowledge and guidance of the best coach in the country, they also had several All-Americans that were named Saturday night in Akron, Ohio.
Ivan Roe, sophomore from Manhattan, Montana, was named first-team All-American by the CRCA and named First-Team selection in both air rifle and smallbore by the National Rifle Association.
Barbara Schlapfer, freshman from Gais, Switzerland, was named All-American at the banquet, Second-Team Honoree by the CRCA.
MacKenzie Martin, freshman from Fairhaven, Massachusetts, received Honorable Mention from the CRCA and NRA in air rifle. Martin also received Second-Team mention in smallbore from the NRA.
Ben Estes, sophomore from Ozark, Missouri, was also named second team in smallbore by the NRA.
Tessa Howald, senior from Ozark, Missouri, finished her Racer career with a 598. Howald gave all four years to Murray State Athletics. Howald plans to focus in pediatric social work. Her favorite memory of the weekend was winning the tie-breaker for second place in air rifle against TCU.
“From where we started my freshman year to where we are now is just amazing,” Howald said. “I will always take what I learned here and apply it to my life.”
The Racers comprised. one senior and four underclassmen to compete at Nationals. The pressure didn’t phase the team, however, who shot their average scores.
“These five shooters went into the National Championship and shot the season match averages that they carried in,” said Lollar. “Looking across the board at national scores, teams don’t normally perform the way they perform during the year because of the pressure and the distractions.”
Lollar said the team’s goal is always to train at a high level, compete as close to that level as they can and to stay consistent. These five were able to accomplish that.
“We determine success by whether or not we do what we should be expected to do with our training and the talent and skill we are given,” Lollar said. “They got 100 percent out of what they had. You can ask nothing more than that.”