The Dominion Post  

WVU rifle team completes unbeaten regular season

Created on:   Sun, Feb 11, 2018   7:24 PM

Last modified:   Sun, Feb 11, 2018   7:24 PM

For The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWWN — The top-ranked WVU rifle team opened the new Bill McKenzie Rifle Range with another championship.

The Mountaineers knocked off No. 3 Kentucky on Feb. 11, 4720-4693, to put the finishing touches on an unbeaten regular season.

In the process, the Mountaineers (13-0, 9-0 GARC) won their seventh Great American Rifle Conference crown and took another step closer to their twentieth NCAA championship.

In the 37 years that the NCAA has recognized rifle as an official collegiate sport, WVU has claimed 19 championships and is working to capture their sixth straight under head coach Jon Hammond.

In his eleventh season, Hammond, a WVU alum, who competed in the Beijing and London Olympics, said the key to continuing the program’s success is to take it one step at a time.

“For us to be successful, we have to focus on ourselves, especially this time of year,” he said. “We have to put those thoughts of winning another title to the back of our minds and be focused on the present. We try to treat every season as a new season and not dwell on what we’ve done before. There’s always time for reflection in the off season.”

In a sport that doesn’t feature many high school programs to recruit from, Hammond talked about what it takes and what he looks for when choosing to fill his team’s championship roster.

“We’re looking for the overall package and the right fit for our program first off” he said. “That entails a lot, starting with shooting ability, obviously, but also their academics, personality and their motivation. In recruiting terms, we really scout national matches and clubs from all over. It’s an aspect of the sport where we have to go really in depth to find people and we’re looking for the best.”

WVU shooters come from six different states and two countries.

One member, Maryland-native sophomore Morgan Phillips, has made a major impact for the Mountaineers.

“We go through and take every match on its own,” she said. “We worked really hard this season and spent a lot of hours in training and a lot of matches. (National championships) aren’t always on our mind, but we prepare for it as much as possible. We’re just going to keep doing the same we’ve been doing all year, all the way to NCAA’s.”

Phillips was a 2017 NCAA Championships Top Performer honoree, NRA All-America first-team and Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association All-America honorable mention.

On Saturday, the Mountaineers will host North Carolina State for their NCAA qualifying match, before hosting the GARC Championships, Feb. 24-25.

The NCAA Championships will be held in Charleston, S.C., on
March 9-10.