Mountaineers, Thrasher Win GARC Titles

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WVU Rifle Team

The No. 4-ranked West Virginia University rifle team clinched its 10th consecutive Great America Rifle Conference (GARC) Championship crown today with a winning 2373 air rifle score shot inside the University of Akron’s Stile Athletics Field House in Akron, Ohio.

The Mountaineers (13-0, 8-0 GARC) captured their conference-best 13th championship crown with a 4715 aggregate score, their second-best mark of the season. In addition to today’s air rifle victory, WVU won the smallbore title on Friday with a 2342 total.
 
The GARC regular-season champions as well, WVU has swept the conference team titles 10 times since 1998.
 
“We’re happy with the overall results,” Mountaineer coach Jon Hammond said. “It probably wasn’t our strongest air rifle showing, but that’s OK because we now know where we can improve as we continue to prepare for the NCAA Championships.
 
“Winning 10 straight championships is an amazing accomplishment, but it wasn’t something we talked about much prior to this weekend. We always focus on one match at a time. For the program in general, this is a very special accomplishment. Winning one title isn’t an easy thing to do, and this streak is a testament to all the great team members who have come through this program.”
 
Four Mountaineers qualified for today’s air rifle final, and senior Ginny Thrasher walked away with her third consecutive air rifle title with a 249.4 score. The 2019 GARC Shooter of the Year and Outstanding Senior, Thrasher graduates with five career conference titles.
 
Joining Thrasher in the day’s final were junior Milica Babic, freshman Verena Zaisberger and junior Morgan Phillips, who finished second (248.3), third (225.9) and fourth (205.3), respectively.
 
“It was great to have four WVU finalists, and halfway through, it looked like they were all having a good final,” Hammond noted. “It was cool to see all four still standing at the end. Just like in practice, they pushed each other and got the best out of one another.
 
“Ultimately, Ginny came out on top, and this was a great result for her. It’s amazing how much success she’s had in finals throughout her career. She’s very determined and competitive once she knows she has a chance to win.”
 
With Phillips’ smallbore win Friday, WVU has swept the conference individual titles in back-to-back seasons for the second time in program history (2010-11).
 
Zaisberger entered the final in first place after shooting a career-best 598 in the open competition.
 
“Verena had a great performance today,” Hammond added. “It’s always a challenge when you join a new team, halfway through the year, in a new country. It was great to see her have such a good match. It wasn’t an easy match, but she was able to work through it and get her best score of the season.”
 
Thrasher qualified in second place with a 596 total, while Babic qualified in fifth place with a 594 mark and Phillips in sixth with a season-high matching 593.
 
Senior Will Anti just missed qualifying for the final, and he finished ninth with a season-high matching 591. Sophomore David Koenders placed 16th with a 590 total, and classmate Sarah Osborn finished in 24th place with a 588 mark. Freshman Jared Eddy shot 586 and finished in 32nd place.
 
Nebraska finished second with a two-day score of 4666, while No. 2 Kentucky placed third with a 4663 total. The host Zips finished in fourth with a 4655 mark, and No. 6 Navy shot 4652 and placed fifth.
 
Ole Miss finished in sixth place with a 4648 score, with No. 8 Army (4647), Memphis (4643) and NC State (4622) rounding out the field.
 
Five Mountaineers counted toward the team’s air rifle score today – Babic, Koenders, Osborn, Phillips and Thrasher.
 
Having already qualified for the 2019 NCAA National Championships, the Mountaineers will use the next two weeks to prepare. The NCAA Rifle Championships will be held March 8-9, at the WVU Coliseum. Tickets are on sale now at NCAA.com/tickets.

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