Story by Cory Sharber, Contributing writer
The Murray State rifle team is set to begin its 2017 season this weekend.
The Racers are ranked third in the CRCA preseason polls to start off the season. They’ll be looking for continued success after a third place finish in the NCAA Championships last year.
The Racers return their entire roster from last season, seven of which obtained all-american honors.
The Racers won the OVC title in 2016, competing against three teams that currently sit in the top-25 in the nation. Head Coach Alan Lollar said his team will have to pick up where they left off in order to compete with a tough conference.
“The OVC is a good conference,” Lollar said. “Morehead and UT Martin are well-coached. It helps to have a conference where you can’t take anything for granted.”
Lollar is entering his 10th season as the head coach for the Racers. He was the 2016 National Coach of the Year and is a four-time OVC Coach of the Year. He has led the Racers to three OVC titles during his tenure.
He wants the team to shoot at their standard of performance, “The Murray State Way.”
The “Murray State Way” has led to success for many of their athletes, like senior Ivan Roe and junior Mackenzie Martin, who both took bronze medals in the 2017 USAS National Championships.
Following this mantra has also led to success in the classroom, as the team has been honored with the OVC Team Academic Achievement Award on three occasions under Lollar.
“They are quality people,” Lollar said. “They are trying to be their best in everything they do. Our team’s GPA shows that we have a commitment to both.”
Their commitment includes a six-day-a-week practice schedule, starting at 5:30 am.
Robert Broadstreet, senior from Ozark, Missouri said their training helps give them an edge during the season.
“We’ve got the advantage over the competition,” Broadstreet said. “We’re all very experienced. We’re all very dedicated. We want it more than everybody else.”
The practices help unite the Racers. First team All-OVC honoree Ben Estes, senior from Ozark, Missouri, commented on the team chemistry.
“Shooting brings us all together,” Estes said. Broadstreet added, “Shooting is the middle ground for everybody.”
The players said they’re looking to perform at their highest level in their last season.
“Being seniors on the team, this is kind of our last hoorah. I know personally that I want to go out with a bang. No pun intended,” said Broadstreet.
Lollar recognized the team’s improvements over the offseason.
“We’re shooting a lot better,” he said. “They’re starting to realize that they need to leave the distractions behind.”
Competition could be stiff this upcoming season, as Murray State sits third behind five-time defending national champion West Virginia at No. 1 and TCU at No. 2 in the CRCA polls. The Mountaineers and Horned Frogs are bringing back most of their shooters this season.
“The only thing that we can do is train as well as we can and shoot matches the way we train,” Lollar said. “This is a sport that you can’t play defense. The only thing you can do is focus.”
Murray State’s season starts on Sept. 23 at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range at 9 am against Georgia Southern.