Story by Blake Sandlin, Contributing writer
With their season set to begin, the Murray State rifle team has high expectations for the coming year, where they’ll be facing some of the top competition in the country.
The Racers are starting this preseason ranked second nationally by the College Rifle Coaches Association. With expectations this high, a lot of teams might be feeling the pressure, but Head Coach Alan Lollar, while honored by the ranking, doesn’t put much stock in the preseason poll.
“It’s good to be ranked at the top, I think it’s a validation for what we do, and the handwork that the kids are doing. We really appreciate that,” Lollar says. “Other than that, it’s just a place to start, it’s more important how you end up.”
Coach Lollar’s team is relatively young this year, with no seniors on the roster. They are welcoming two freshman to the team this season, Shelby Huber from Columbus, Georgia, and Meike Drewell from Austin, Texas, who Coach Lollar believes will bring a hardworking attitude to practice everyday.
The team will be loaded with talent this year, as four All-Americans from last season will be returning this year. MacKenzie Martin from Fairhaven, Massachusetts, Ben Estes from Ozark, Missouri, Ivan Roe from Manhattan, Montana and Barbara Barbara Schläpfer from Gais, Switzerland, are all returning for another season. Coach Lollar is pleased to have these players on his team and believes that everyone plays a role in pushing one another and leading along the way.
“One of the best things about us is the team chemistry,”Lollar says. “Our All-Americans would not be where they are if they didn’t have people behind them pushing them. It’s a team effort, and they are all leaders in their own way.”
This season the team will be shooting against some of the top teams in the country. Top-ranked West Virginia, Texas Christian, and the University of Kentucky are all scheduled to shoot against the Racers this year.
Coach Lollar and his team are up to the challenge of getting to face off against the best talent in the country. Lollar says he and his team look forward to every chance they get to shoot against these top programs.
Despite the tough competition on the schedule this year, Coach Lollar’s main focus is on his team’s individual performance scores. In rifle, it’s more about each person’s individual performance than the team that they’re facing.
“You’re really not going up against anyone but yourself,” Lollar said. “Qualifying for NCAA championships in rifle is about the scores you shoot, not about your win/loss record.”
The Racers will open their season Sept. 25 against UT Martin at the Spurgin Rifle Range in Murray. UT Martin comes into the season ranked 19th nationally in the CRCA rankings.
They are coached by Bob Beard, a Murray State alumnus who has had a tremendous impact during his time with the Racers, acquiring Hall of Fame honors at Murray State. Coach Lollar has tremendous respect for Coach Beard, and said he has had an enormous impact on his coaching career.
“There’s a real family connection with us,” Lollar said. “I consider Bob one of my mentors, he’s taught me a lot. One of the reasons I’m in this job doing this is because of him.”
The Murray State rifle team will be tested this year, facing many schools in the nation; but with their roster, the Racers intend to prove they can compete with the best.