WVU rifle wins ninth consecutive conference championship

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 1 West Virginia University rifle team shot 2366 air rifle this afternoon at the 2018 Great America Rifle Conference Championships at the Bill McKenzie Rifle Range, pushing its aggregate total to 4699 and giving the Mountaineers their ninth straight championship title. 

WVU’s (13-0, 9-0) title is its conference-best 13th. The Mountaineers also won the regular season title, and have now swept the GARC team titles nine times since 1998.

“I liked the way everyone fought through the match today,” Mountaineer coach Jon Hammond said. “I think a lot of them had a few struggles, but I think they each had a great attitude, stayed positive and worked through their matches. They didn’t have their best overall performance, but they did the best they could today. I’m sure they each got a lot out of this weekend for preparations for the NCAA Championships.”

Once again, the individual final came down to two Mountaineers, as junior Ginny Thrasher and sophomore Morgan Phillips were the last two athletes at the line shooting for the air rifle championship. For the second straight day, Thrasher edged Phillips, finishing with a 250.7-247.7 advantage.

Today’s air rifle title is Thrasher’s second straight. Combined with yesterday’s smallbore victory, Thrasher has claimed four GARC titles in three seasons.

No. 4 Kentucky finished second overall with a two-day total of 4686. The Wildcats edged the Mountaineers in today’s air rifle competition, winning the team title with a 2367 total.

“This was a good match for our team to work through today,” Hammond said. “It’s OK for us to struggle and battle it out a little bit. We need to make sure we aren’t complacent and do the preparation we need to do the next couple of weeks. This is a good reminder that there are other competitive teams. While we were able to win the championship, and that’s great, there’s a lot for us to work on these next few weeks.”

No. 10 Navy finished third with a 4663 mark, while No. 8 Nebraska and Ole Miss tied for fourth place with 4651 totals. NC State placed sixth with a 4646 mark, and Army West Point finished in seventh place with a 4639 score. Akron and Memphis finished in eighth and ninth place, respectively, with scores of 4637 and 4624.

In total, six Mountaineers counted toward the team’s scores at the championships. Thrasher, Gratz, Phillips and Koenders counted in both disciplines, while Osborn counted toward WVU’s smallbore score, and Anti shot toward the team’s air rifle total.

Of note, WVU was again without the services of sophomore Milica Babic, as she is competing for Serbia at the 2018 European Championships.

Having already qualified for the 2018 NCAA National Championships as the field’s top seed, the Mountaineers will use the next two weeks to prepare for the defense of their five straight titles. The National Championships will be held March 9-10, at The Citadel’s McAlister Field House in Charleston, South Carolina.

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