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Rifle qualifies for NCAA Championships in Alaska

Elizabeth Leggett February 27, 2015 Athletics, Rifle, Slider Featured stories
Haley Hays/The News Kelsey Emme (above, center), senior shooter, will compete with her team at the NCAA Championship in Fairbanks, Ala.

Haley Hays/The News
Kelsey Emme (above, center), senior shooter, will compete with her team at the NCAA Championship in Fairbanks, Ala.

The snow is melting and the sun is out for most, but not for the Racer rifle team. They received their bid to travel with seven other teams to Anchorage, Alaska for the NCAA Championships.

“I thought they did a fine job staying composed under a lot of uncertainty,” said Head Coach Alan Lollar.

After a week of changing traveling arrangements, the athletes were relieved to take their final shots and move into the NCAA Championships March 13-14.

Saturday the Racers faced UT Martin (mixed men and women), UT Martin (women) and the University of Memphis to compete for eight spots in the championships. Lollar said even though their training schedule had been wrecked from the weather and threatened to postpone or move the match, the team overcame all of its obstacles.

“I think we are in a good spot,” Lollar said. “We finished strong. We shot our spring average and were just a few points shy of our three match average. I thought we handled the pressure of the big match well and are ready for the next challenge.”

Among the schools traveling to Fairbanks will be Jacksonville State, West Virginia  University and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks University. The Racers averaged a team score of 2,313.3 in smallbore and a 2,349.2 in air rifle. This finished the racers season with an aggregate score of 4,662.5. They are currently tied with UAF for the second most appearances in the NCAA with this being their 29 time.

“It’s exciting for the team because a lot of them have never been to (Alaska),” Lollar said. “It’s about a 15-hour trip so if they can get past the exotic place and big distractions then I think they’ll do just fine.”

The Racers will travel to compete in Alaska where alumna and current Alaska Budget Director, Pat Spurgin-Pitney resides. Lollar said throughout the season he keeps in touch with Pitney about the players.

Pitney is a 1984 Gold Medalist in the air rifle category, a 1983 three time gold medalist in the Pan American Games, a NCAA champion for Murray State and an eight-time All-American in both air rifle and smallbore. Murray State’s current rifle range is named in honor of Pitney.

“I expect she will definitely be there,” Lollar said. “She has always supported us and I look forward to seeing her there.”

The whole team has their sights set on the championships, but for one senior, Kelsey Emme, this will be her last chance at another win.

“As the man said, ‘I have not sufficient flow of speech’ when it comes to talking about what (Kelsey) has meant to this program,” Lollar said. “She has been a real leader that I have counted on. She has helped shape Racer rifle for the future.”

Emme has been to the NCAA Championships twice before this year and one thing Lollar said he thinks she has missed is being able to share the experience with her teammates, which she will be able to do this year.

“She’s had her goals set for this and has worked hard for it,” Lollar said. “I think it says a lot about her and the team. Everyone is supportive of each other and the fact that the team is close like a family is good.”

Lollar said the team is preparing just as they would for any other match. They begin their journey March 13-14 for Fairbanks, Ala. to compete for the NCAA Championship title.

Story by Kelsey Randolph, Assistant Sports Editor

Rifle finishes second

Elizabeth Leggett February 13, 2015 Athletics, Rifle

The Racer rifle team shot its way to two-second place finishes in the OVC Championships, coming up behind host, Jacksonville State.

“I thought Jacksonville State did a very good job,” said Head Coach Alan Lollar. “They did a good job and were an excellent host. The match went on without a hitch.”

Finishing with an aggregate score of 2,303 in smallbore, the Racers placed just eight points behind Jacksonville State who finished with an aggregate score of 2,311.

Murray State  was  in front of the UT Martin mixed men and women with a score of 2,295. In fourth was Morehead State shooting 2,292, then Columbus State at 2,246 and finally the UT Martin women 2,193.

On Saturday the Racers competed against four other schools in the smallbore category. Freshman Ben Estes led the Racers by tying his career-high at 583, which was one point from the smallbore high of the day.

Returning the next day to compete for air rifle, the Racers finished just 10 points shy of Jacksonville State with an aggregate score of 2,341, which made them only 18 points shy of the overall title.

Finishing in third place again was a mix of UT Martin men and women with a score 2,320. Five points behind Jacksonville State was Morehead State shooting a score of 2,315. In fifth place was Columbus State at 2,319 and finishing up were the women of UT Martin at 2,294.

“We’ve definitely shot better than we did this weekend,” Lollar said. “But it can be chalked up to those athletes who have never shot in a conference championships.”

Many athletes received awards for their accomplishments at the end of the OVC season,  even their coach, who was named Co-Coach of the Year for the third time in his nine years at Murray State.

With the NCAA Qualifiers at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range just a week away, the Racers are preparing just as they have for any other match. Lollar said he doesn’t treat it any differently because they have matched up against these teams before and   it is on their home range it should give them a slight advantage of comfort.

“We’re learning to handle those big distractions,” Lollar said. “Regardless, I am proud of their effort. They worked hard and they competed extremely well. We just made too many mistakes.”

In order to qualify for the NCAA Championships, a shooter’s top three scores from different locations are averaged. At the NCAA Qualifiers the number they shoot is added to their average and only the top eight scorers are invited to the championships.

Qualifying Racers  will travel March 13-14 to Fairbanks, Alaska for the NCAA Championships.

Awards from OVC

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Kelsey Emme (Sr.)

-All-Conference Second Team (Air rifle)

-All-Conference First Team (Smallbore)

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Tessa Howald (Jr.)

-All-Conference Second Team (Air rifle)

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Ivan Roe (Fr.)

-All-Conference First Team (Air rifle)

-All-Newcomer Team (Air rifle and smallbore)

-OVC Freshman of the Year

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Robert Broadstreet (Fr.)

-All-Conference Second Team (Air Rifle)

-All-Newcomer Team (Air rifle)

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Ben Estes (Fr.)

-All-Conference First Team (Smallbore)

-All-Newcomer Team (Air Rifle and Smallbore)

-OVC Smallbore Athlete of the Year

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Photo courtesy of Racer Athletics

Alan Lollar (Coach)

-Co-Coach of the Year

Story by Kelsey Randolph, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 8 Rifle team prepares for final regular season match

Elizabeth Leggett January 30, 2015 Athletics, Rifle, Slider Featured stories
Kory Savage/The News Junior Tessa Howald led the Racers in smallbore during the Withrow Open at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range Sunday.

Kory Savage/The News
Junior Tessa Howald led the Racers in smallbore during the Withrow Open at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range Sunday.

The No. 8 Murray State rifle team ended its regular season by winning the Withrow Open last weekend at its home range and, in the process, took down two of the top five teams in the country.

At the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range, the Racers out-shot the other nine teams, including the  No. 3 University of Kentucky as well as No. 5 Jacksonville State.

Both of those teams had defeated the Racers in competitions in the fall. In addition to that loss, Jacksonville State beat the Racers Jan. 18 in Alabama, 4677-4649.

“We’re always concerned about the University of Kentucky and Jacksonville State,” said Head Coach Alan Lollar. “They always make it tough, but I was real proud of them.”

During this last competition before the OVC Championships Feb. 7, Lollar said he saw more consistency than he has all season.

“The biggest challenge was overcoming all the distractions,” Lollar said. “We managed to break records and set a new smallbore aggregate score.”

Lollar said the entire team came forward setting new records and stepping up on the way to a season-high score of 4,687.

Among the Racers’ top shooters were junior Tessa Howald from Ozark, Mo., shooting a career high of 586, and senior Kelsey Emme from Piedmont, S.D., as well as freshman Ben Estes from Ozark, Mo., shooting the same score of 583.

Junior Hannah Harris from New Albany, Ind., proved to step up and shot her season high of 573.

“The more experience they have and the more they get used to the idea of doing the best they can do, the better the outcome will be as a team,” Lollar said.

The Racers will rest this week and prepare for OVC Championships at the range in Jacksonville, Ala. Lollar said he believes the team has been growing up and should do well as long as the shooters stay focused during competition.

Lollar said the team members won’t train any differently for the championships than they have the rest of the season.

“OVC is no different than any other match,” Lollar said. “It’s doing the best you can do every shot. They’ve proved they know how to do that but it’s whether or not they can do it again this time.”

Story by Kelsey RandolphAssistant Sports Editor

Rifle prepares for final regular season match

Elizabeth Leggett January 23, 2015 Athletics, Rifle, Slider Featured stories
Kory Savage/The News Freshman Ben Estes practices shooting at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range Jan. 14.

Kory Savage/The News
Freshman Ben Estes practices shooting at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range Jan. 14.

Coming off a weekend with its third highest total score of the school year, the Racer rifle team suits up Friday for its last home competition and must face nine other schools.

The upcoming match is the final regular season competition before heading to the OVC Championship in Jacksonville, Ala., on Feb 7. Head Coach Alan Lollar isn’t letting the idea of the championship distract the shooters.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Lollar said. “It’s still too soon and we need to focus on what is in front of us.”

Murray State hosts the Withrow Invitational at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range in Roy Stewart Stadium. There will be nine schools traveling to compete as well as junior teams from high schools across the nation.

The Withrow Invitiational will be Murray State’s most diverse competition of the year, hosting an exhibition of nine teams. Lollar said this will prove to be a good challenge for the team because of the distractions the shooters need to overcome.

The team’s previous competition might have been a struggle overall, but Lollar said the team shot its third highest aggregate score and was pleased with its performance.

“It was tough at JSU because they are a very good team and they are a legitimate top five material,” Lollar said. “People were putting pressure on themselves instead of doing what they are supposed to do”

Lollar said it’s about being consistent and showing you can shoot your best every time. Because the score appears as an average of only five shooters, the score could show as a loss but only be one point away from the opposing team.

“Consistency for us is doing things the same way every time no matter where you are no matter what range it is,” said Lollar. “If you do things the same way every time you make your adjustments then you have a chance to feel like you will perform at your best.”

With this being the last competition before the OVC Championships, Lollar said they are going to stick to focusing on the task at hand.

Saturday the Racers traveled to Fort Benning, Ga., and tested their skill at Columbus State and leaving with a win of aggregate scores ranging from 4,671-4,553. Following the win they traveled to Jacksonville, Ala. to shoot against Jacksonville State that places them with a loss of an aggregate score of 4,649-4,677.

Lollar said the team struggled but not for a lack of effort. With the team shooting in both air rifle and smallbore, they must focus for long periods of time. In air rifle, the shooter must stand and shoot 60 shots all from the standing position. Smallbore requires the shooters to lie on the ground in the prone position, kneel on their knees and then stand, shooting 20 shots in each stance.

“It was a new range for us,” said Robert Broadstreet, freshman from Ozark, Mo. “This was the entire team’s first time ever going there. We shot some really good kneeling and some okay prone but we capped it off with standing as a team. The circumstances made it hard to see but overall we did well.”

Some shooters like Broadstreet say rifle is often an unseen sport on campus even though Murray State has a long national reputation for having a premier program.

“It’s completely different than what people think,” said Broadstreet. “It’s good to get people to come down and get people to know what we’re about. It’s good for people to see how precise it is and see that it’s not just shooting.”

Story by Kelsey RandolphAssistant Sports Editor

Unseen sports from the press box

Elizabeth Leggett January 23, 2015 Athletics, Sports Columns

It wasn’t until my junior year that I discovered we have an entire rifle range under Roy Stewart Stadium.

I’m not talking about a small, one or two line range; I’m talking about a fully equipped digitalized rifle range.

I also didn’t realize rifle was an Olympic sport or that we had student-athletes that have competed in the Junior Olympics.

While basketball and football usually get the most headlines, I think it’s important to remember there is more to the athletic world than those more popular sports.

We have a rifle team that is nationally ranked and a volleyball team that reined in an OVC Championship.

Not to mention a soccer team that went 11-9 in the season, put four players on the All-OVC Team and for their eighth consecutive year received the NSCAA Academic Award for having a 3.0 GPA.

Folks, we have some great athletes on this campus.

I have enough trouble working two jobs, being in a sorority and maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

While most athletes get scholarships to play at Murray State, not everyone does. I say bravo to all the athletes who work so hard to do what they do. Some people do it for the pure enjoyment and satisfaction.

The men’s cross-country team is on their own. They aren’t paid nor are they given scholarships to run.

Dedication at it’s finest.

This isn’t to put down anyone else who is involved.

Anyone who is a part of an organization on campus knows how difficult it can be to juggle that many hats.

I commend anyone who can be as involved as these athletes are.

With baseball season starting soon and track and field picking up I am sure to see plenty of accomplishments come across my desk in the form of an article. 

I have underestimated the incredibly talented people who practice and train every day for something they just love doing.

I feel a sense of similarity with athletes only because I study and practice doing something I love every day; writing.

These athletes’ accomplishments may go unnoticed by some oblivious people, but I have to point out that President Bob Davies has not let it go unnoticed.

He has made appearances at men’s and women’s basketball games, soccer games, volleyball games, rifle matches and even the nationally ranked bass anglers team.

I interview a wide variety of people and something I’ve heard from coaches is how they believe Davies is one of the most dedicated presidents they’ve encountered in their time.

I didn’t realize how important our sports are here at Murray State. I am proud to say I cover many of these sports and wouldn’t change my position of covering them.

Since it’s a new year, I’ll jump on the bandwagon and say I think we should all try to support more than just the basketball team and show up to more than tailgating for football.

I hope to see more of you down in the range watching our dedicated shooters and more people sitting in the stands for softball and baseball this season.

Column by Kelsey Randolph, Assistant Sports Editor

Rifle shoots record high

Elizabeth Leggett January 16, 2015 Athletics, Rifle
Kory Savage/The News Freshman Ivan Roe from Manhattan, Mont., sets his sights at practice.

Kory Savage/The News
Freshman Ivan Roe from Manhattan, Mont., sets his sights at practice.

In its first match back from Winter Break, the rifle team shot two wins, scored above its average and had a guest appearance.

Head Coach Alan Lollar brought the players back from the break a week early to train for their matches against Columbus State on Jan. 10 and UT Martin on Jan. 11. Both matches put the Racers scoring two points above their usual average smallbore score and eight points above their average air rifle score.

“I was really happy with the way they came back,” Lollar said. “To come and shoot at the level they did showed they were serious about training and worked hard on their own.”

UP AND COMING FRESHMAN

The Racers shot their best scores since the season opener. Shooting an aggregate score of 4,667 put the team five points from their season best of 4,672. Ivan Roe, freshman from Manhattan, Mont., led the team with a high of 582 in smallbore and 593 in air rifle, which tied his career-high in smallbore and made a personal best in air rifle.

“I think all three of the freshman want to do the best they can,” Lollar said. “The commitment is priceless. You can’t make somebody want to do that. For them to have that drive and commitment and work hard every morning is really good to see.”

Roe got a feel for the sport from the Manhattan High School BB Club team. Roe’s scores put him notching a score as high as the fourth-year Racer senior, Kelsey Emme. Roe said he never expected to do as well as his record shows because of his young age. The team strives to do better than the next person–always working toward their best.

“It’s like an undergrowth,” Roe said. “When a forest burns down there is always something new and better to grow back.”

Roe was named the Murray State Pepsi Athlete of the Week Jan. 5-11.

PLANS FOR THE SEASON

Lollar said every week the goal of the team is to be consistent. He said training as if every practice is a match helps the team feel comfortable in other environments.

Kory Savage/The News Freshman Ivan Roe from Manhattan, Mont., practices a prone position for smallbore before the team’s match Saturday against Columbus State and Jacksonville State on Sunday.

Kory Savage/The News
Freshman Ivan Roe from Manhattan, Mont., practices a prone position for smallbore before the team’s match Saturday against Columbus State and Jacksonville State on Sunday.

“When you first start playing a new instrument, you’re bad,” Lollar said. “The instrument doesn’t change but your repetition and how many times you’re doing that does. You only get better if you make the effort to do it right.”

Something of a surprise to the Racers last weekend was a visit from President Bob Davies. Lollar said in his eight years coaching this is the first time he remembers having a president visit the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range.

“It is wonderful having a president come visit,” Lollar said. “It means a lot to the shooters because they know he’s interested and just that helps everything.”

SURPRISE VISIT

Roe said it was to his shock that Davies was ready to greet the team as the came off the range line.

“It was cool to show our president what we can do,” Roe said. “We got off the line and he greeted us telling us we did well. You don’t get that every day and it meant a lot to us.”

The Racers travel to Fort Benning, Ga., Saturday to face Columbus State and to Jacksonville, Ala., to face Jacksonville State on Sunday.

“I think if this weekend reflects anything like we’ve been shooting in practice then we’ll surprise a lot of people,” Roe said.

Screen shot 2015-01-15 at 8.19.05 PM

Story by Kelsey Randolph, Assistant Sports Editor

Rifle falls to UK, wins against Army

Elizabeth Leggett November 14, 2014 Athletics, Rifle
Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore Sam Harris begins spring training after the team’s last matches against UK Nov. 7 and the Army Nov. 8.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Sophomore Sam Harris begins spring training after the team’s last matches against UK Nov. 7 and the Army Nov. 8.

The Racer rifle team finished its fall season with a split last weekend, losing to No. 2 University of Kentucky but beating No. 12 Army.

“I thought the weekend went well,” said Head Coach Alan Lollar. “Our match against UK was tough because they are a pretty good team, and they shot well as a team. We came out four points above our average, and I am very pleased with it.”

The Racers lost to UK by five points in the smallbore category with a score of 2,311 and finished up air rifle with a score of 2,350, giving the team an aggregate score of 4,661. Rifle has two categories, smallbore and air rifle. The difference between the two is the size of the barrel and the position they shoot from.

Smallbore requires three positions: kneeling, prone and standing.

For each position, the shooter gets 20 rounds for a total of 60 shots. Air rifle requires the shooter to stand the whole time and requires 60 shots, all while standing.

“I think they’ve done a good job,” Lollar said. “They’ve worked hard and been consistent. They have individually shot at a good level and when they do that the team does better. I am really proud of them for that.”

Leading the Racers Fri. Nov. 7 were freshman Ben Estes, sophomore Sam Harris and junior Tessa Howald. All three shot above 570 both days. The highest score possible is a 600.

Following Friday’s match against UK, the Racers shot Sat. Nov. 8 against Army. The Racers finished smallbore with a total of 2,312 and air rifle with a score of 2,337, giving them an aggregate score of 4,649.

Another of the team’s top scorers both days was junior Kaitlyn Wilson. She helped the Racers by shooting above a 550 in both categories against UK and Army.

“For me, UK was intimidating because they are a big school with big numbers,” Wilson said. “We did better this year than we did last year against them. The Army was a little down, but we knew we could come out top. UK just had it all together that day.”

Senior Kelsey Emme and Estes led the Racers against Army, both ending with identical scores in smallbore.

The team finished the fall season ranked No. 8 in the NCAA. Lollar said because the fall season is over, the team will now focus on training for spring, specifically in air rifle.

“Consistency is what’s important,” Wilson said. “Personally I will work on my smallbore since I have a decent air rifle score, but as a team we need to work on our intensity. As a team we will bump up our training; we have had enough matches at this point everyone knows what to expect.”

Looking back from the beginning of the semester, Wilson said she’s seen freshmen like Ivan Roe and Estes step up and support the older team members as well as the older members help out the younger members.

She said the team has changed drastically since she was a freshman and she’s seen the team become a family. 

Wilson said not everyone has a good day everyday so to see another team member do well makes the team feel good.

The spring season will start with the second MSU Tri-match against Columbus State and UT Martin Jan. 11th at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range.

Story by Kelsey RandolphAssistant Sports Editor

Senior shooter finds success as rifle popularity rises

Elizabeth Leggett November 7, 2014 Athletics, Rifle
Jenny Rohl/The News Senior Kelsey Emme practices shooting Wednesday at Pat Spurgin Rifle Range.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Senior Kelsey Emme practices shooting Wednesday at Pat Spurgin Rifle Range.

Kelsey Emme began her career as a competitive shooter the day her dad gave her a BB gun at age 4, leading to her success as a collegiate and junior Olympic rifle team member.

Emme said she begins a typical match by imagining herself having  perfect scores. Emme said she goes through all her positions and reassures herself that she knows what she’s doing.

“I get to the arena and immediately set up on the line,” Emme said. “I stretch and listen to music. My goal is to keep myself in a good state of mind and try to calm my nerves.”

Emme said she prepares for smallbore first and then air rifle. In the smallbore competition, athletes are judged on shooting 20 shots in three different positions; kneeling, prone and standing. Air rifle is judged shooting all 60 shots standing. Shooters are scored on how accurate their shot is on the automated target, which shows immediate results on a monitor in the range.

Unlike other sports, rifle is not given places during each match. Points are awarded and at the end of the season they are given averages and the shooters are placed based on those points. The higher the score, the closer to the target the shooter was.

Emme has shot with her dad since she was young, and in middle school she joined a club team 30 miles from her home. Growing up, she played three other sports as well. A typical day after school for Emme was to attend volleyball practice, basketball practice, golf practice then drive the 30 miles from her hometown of Piedmont, S.D., to Rapid City, S.D., to rifle practice.

“Coming to college I had to decide what I wanted to do,” Emme said. “I looked at the sports and had to decide what I could do everyday for the next four years. I felt like I could put everything I had into rifle and still love it.”

Since Emme began her rifle career, she has been to the Bavarian Airgun Championships in Germany where she finished eighth and she also competed in the USA Shooting Nationals, where she was named the Junior Champion in air rifle and finished fourth overall in the competition.

“I’ve come pretty far since my freshman year,” Emme said. “I’ve learned to not pressure myself. Everyday won’t be a good day; I’ve learned to just play my hardest every match.”

Rifle is a rising sport on campus, according to Emme. She said she has seen more people take an interest.

“My freshman year people would tell me they didn’t know there was a rifle team,” Emme said. “Now when I mention it people tell me they’ve not only heard of the team but that we’re good.”

Emme said the Olympic Committee changed the way it presents rifle matches by making the scores in real-time feedback. According to Emme, this change makes the sport more appealing to the crowd. Spectators can sit in the stands and watch as the scores instantly appear with the shooters’ names automatically moving higher or lower on the scoreboard as the numbers come in.

“It’s a slow sport to watch,” Emme said. “Because they changed the way it’s presented, there are a lot more people willing to sit through a match. It’s definitely a rising sport.”

As Emme’s last semester approaches, she said she’s had a successful college career in rifle and her memories are something she will always take with her.

Story by Kelsey RandolphAssistant Sports Editor

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