On March eight and 9, West Virginia University will host the NCAA Rifle Championship for the very first time ever.
Yes, you study that proper. Regardless of the school’s extended and storied history as a collegiate rifle powerhouse — a history that involves 19 NCAA titles in the previous 39 years — WVU has never ever hosted a national championship occasion.
“Until 3 years ago, we didn’t have a facility massive adequate to do that,” explained Jon Hammond, the Mountaineers’ rifle coach. “The minimum requirement was to have a variety with 12 firing points, and our variety only had 10.”
A former WVU football player remedied that deficiency. Bill McKenzie — extended revered for kicking a final-second field purpose to beat arch-rival Pittsburgh in 1975 — donated $100,000 for a state-of-the-art transportable variety that not only met the NCAA minimum, but surpassed it.
“The Bill McKenzie Transportable Rifle Variety has 20 electronically scored Megalink targets with bullet catchers for every a single,” Hammond explained. “We had to construct frames for the targets, plus a set of wood-and-steel background walls that encompass the variety in the unlikely occasion that a shot would miss a target. With all that in hand, we had been in a position to bid on hosting a championship right here at WVU.”
Hammond mentioned that so far, the variety has been utilised for matches in each the Shell Building’s football practice region and in the WVU Coliseum, exactly where the NCAA tournament will take location.
“We’ve offered it a fairly excellent test in the previous handful of weeks,” he added. “We utilised it in our [regular-season] match against Kentucky, and we hosted the [Great American Rifle Conference] Championships and the NCAA qualifying tournament.”
Till electronic scoring came along, watching a rifle tournament was around 4 occasions far more boring than watching paint dry. Shooters fired at paper targets, every of which had to be manually scored nicely just after everybody had completed shooting.
Teams and folks discovered no matter whether they’d won or lost when an NCAA official came out of the scoring area and tacked the benefits onto a bulletin board.
Hammond mentioned electronic targets “have changed the game, for positive.”
“When a bullet or pellet passes by way of the target, a bunch of infrared beams measure exactly where it hit,” he continued. “The facts shows up on a monitor and is instantly scored. All the facts from the person monitors can be projected onto personal computer screens or Television screens, and also broadcast on the world-wide-web. People today anyplace in the planet can watch a match, shot by shot.”
Due to the fact the NCAA started scoring its tournaments electronically in 2008, it has set up monitors in a spectator region so onlookers can comply with the action.
“It has absolutely come to be a lot far more fascinating for people today who attend the tournament,” Hammond mentioned.
Case in point: Viewers who watched NBC’s telecast of the 2016 Olympics got to watch Ginny Thrasher, who had just completed her freshman year at WVU, fire her final handful of shots to take the gold medal in the women’s 10-meter air rifle occasion. Reside and in genuine time, they could see precisely exactly where Thrasher’s shot struck the target, and could instantly see how quite a few points it scored.
Thrasher is a senior now, and a single of the leaders on a WVU squad that goes into the national tournament as the No. four seed regardless of getting unbeaten and ranked No. 1 all round by the NCAA. Seedings had been determined by how nicely teams shot in the qualifier, and WVU’s score of four,690 trailed prime-seeded Texas Christian, second-seeded Kentucky and third-seeded Air Force.
Hammond expects the Mountaineers’ stiffest competitors to come from that trio.
Final year, WVU steamed into the NCAA tournament like a planet-beating juggernaut, only to be upended by a Kentucky squad that got hot at precisely the proper time.
“Rifle is a funny sport,” he mentioned. “If a single or two of your shooters is just a single or two points off, it can make the distinction in between winning and losing.”
Hammond mentioned this year’s Mountaineers have attempted to develop momentum gradually more than the course of its typical season, which started final fall and ended in February.
“The fall semester wasn’t our strongest in terms of benefits, but we place a lot of tough perform in,” he continued. “Our score at the qualifiers wasn’t our finest score, but we discovered from it. We really feel like we’re in a fairly excellent location as we head into the championships.”
The Mountaineers return most of the shooters from final year’s runner-up group. They include things like Thrasher, who won the person smallbore and air rifle titles at the 2016 NCAA Championship, then went on to win her gold medal junior Morgan Phillips, who has captured the person smallbore title every of the previous two years sophomore Sarah Osborn, who has represented the U.S. in international junior competitions and 3 international-class shooters — junior Milica Babic from Serbia, sophomore David Koenders from Germany and freshman Verena Zaisberger of Austria.
A total of 48 shooters certified for the occasion — eight teams of 5 shooters every, and eight shooters who fired qualifying scores regardless of getting on nonqualifying teams. Qualifying group include things like WVU, TCU, Kentucky, Air Force, Army, Murray State, Navy and Alaska-Fairbanks.
The smallbore group and person competitions will be held from 10 a.m. to two:30 p.m. on March eight, with the person finals to comply with in between three:30 and four:30 p.m. The air rifle group and person competitions will be held from 10:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on March 9, with the person finals to comply with in between two:30 and three:45 p.m.
Tickets for every day are $10 and are excellent for all the sessions on that day. They can be ordered on the internet at www.wvugame.com.