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Mountaineers in Second Place at NCAA Championships

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. - After the first day of the 2019 NCAA Rifle Championships, fourth-ranked West Virginia University sits in second place, as the Mountaineers shot a 2331 smallbore total this afternoon at the Bill McKenzie Rifle Range inside the WVU Coliseum.

Though top-ranked TCU also shot 2331 today, the Horned Frogs break the tie with a 127-112 center-shot advantage and therefore are the 2019 NCAA Smallbore Champion.

“I’m really proud of our team,” Mountaineer coach Jon Hammond said. “We had to work really hard. This was an up and down day, but we’re happy where we’re sitting. We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

No. 2-ranked Kentucky is third with a 2322 total, while No. 5 Murray State sits in fourth place with a 2320 mark. Third-ranked Air Force is in fifth place with a 2319 total and is followed by No. 5 Navy, who shot 2298. Army West Point (2295) and Alaska-Fairbanks (2287) round out the field.

Today marks the second time in as many years WVU has finished in second place in smallbore. Last year, the Mountaineers (13-0, 8-0) shot 2327 smallbore.

Three Mountaineers qualified for the eight-person smallbore final, the most of any school. Sophomore David Koenders finished a team-best third with a 444.8 showing. Senior Ginny Thrasher shot 423.1 and finished fifth, while junior Morgan Phillips shot 402.3 and placed seventh.

“David had a really good performance,” Hammond said of the finals. “He got off to a good start in kneeling and prone. Standing is always the hardest position, and he was just a couple shots short at the end. I think Morgan and Ginny maybe struggled a little more than they have before in finals. They had to work really hard. They did so much great work today in the match, and there’s a lot for them to take forward into tomorrow.

“The finals are tough. They’re so quick and different than the match. Morgan and Ginny have been in so many finals, and so many of them they’ve finished near the top. It’s almost impossible to be that consistent in a final where you’re on the clock and there’s more inconsistencies. They worked hard all the way to the end. Having three in the final really showed that we had a consistent team effort today.”

TCU’s Elizabeth Marsh won the NCAA smallbore title with a 456.9 showing in the final.

Koenders (195 kneeling, 199 prone, 192 standing) and Thrasher (194 kneeling, 197 prone, 195 standing) entered the final tied for third place, as both shot 586 in the open relay. The total was two-shots short of Koenders’ career high and three short of Thrasher’s season best. Phillips qualified in seventh place with a 585 (195 kneeling, 197 prone, 193 standing) total.

Junior Milica Babic was the fourth Mountaineer to count toward the team’s total today and finished 30th with a 574 (189 kneeling, 197 prone, 188 standing) total. Sophomore Sarah Osborn placed 35th with a 571 (190 kneeling, 195 prone, 186 standing) mark.

“The mental toughness today was really good,” Hammond said. “They really stuck with their tasks. That’s the hard part of our sport – the mental side. It can be very easy to get unraveled and get in your own head. They did a really good job today. A lot of them had a few tough patches, but they responded, came back and kept working hard. None of them got flustered or frustrated. They were very much in control and gave their best efforts, and that helped us with a pretty solid performance overall.”

The 2019 NCAA Rifle Championships concludes tomorrow with the air rifle competition. The first relay, which will feature Koenders, Osborn and Phillips, will begin at 10:15 a.m. The second relay, featuring Babic and Thrasher, will begin at 12:15 p.m., and the final will follow at 2:30 p.m. An award ceremony will take place immediately after the air rifle final.

“We’ll start tomorrow as a new day – a new competition,” Hammond added. “We would say that whether we were 20 points behind or 20 points ahead. It just so happens, we’re tied and it’s all going to be based on tomorrow. We have a team who has good experience and has been in lots of different situations. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter as much as being able to put ourselves in the moment and to be focused on ourselves and the present.”

Doors open Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Fans can purchase tickets now at Tickets also will be on sale Saturday at the WVU Coliseum Gold Gate Mountaineer Ticket Office.

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