Story by Nick Kendall
Graduate Barbara Schläpfer is the inaugural recipient of the “Human Benchrest” award, named after one of the rifle program’s most distinguished alumni.
The award is named after Ernie Vande Zande who claimed 36 team and individual championships and set more than 200 national records in shooting during his 4-year career spanning from 2002-2005.
Vande Zande was nicknamed the “Human Benchrest” by a fellow shooter in the US Army Marksmanship Unit because of his prowess in prone shooting .
Head Coach Alan Lollar created the award to honor the rifle program’s success and life lessons Vande Zande taught him and others.
“There was obviously the fundraising that has made such a difference in our team,” Lollar said. “Without, Ernie, Bill and all our alumni and supporters we could not do the things we do.”
Lollar remembers Vande Zande fondly and how he made everyone become a better version of themselves.
“Ernie was a friend and mentor, Lollar said. “I never asked a question that I did not get a complete and understandable answer. Ernie had the ability to encourage and push at the same time. He made you believe in yourself. He loved the idea of ‘The Murray State Way’. His attention to detail is famous and was the genius of our ‘Standard of Performance’. He is with us every day and we are proud to honor him with this award.”
In 1981, Vande Zande took five golds and set two world records at the championship of the Americas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Schläpfer earned the inaugural award by finishing the 2018-19 season with a prone average of 198.58, beating out fellow senior MacKenzie Martin by just 0.28 of a point.
As a senior and arguably the best shooter in the country, Schläpfer completed one of the most impressive seasons in the history of the Murray State rifle team.
“Barbara is the perfect first recipient of the HBR Award,” Lollar said . “Her attention to detail and work ethic are impressive. It’s a great way to start.”
Schläpfer led the nation in both smallbore and aggregate averages on the year, at 586.6 and 1180.8, respectively.
In air rifle, the Switzerland native finished with an average of 594.3, which was not only the fourth-highest average in the nation, but also a new Murray State program record.
Because of her outstanding season, she received Rifle Athlete of the Year Honors, the sport’s top individual honor, from the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association.