Once again the time of the year that every collegiate rifle shooter looks forward to is upon us, NCAA Rifle Championships. Starting from a very young age, kids in the United States dream of playing a sport in college. What they don’t know at a young age is the pressure and anxiety that comes along with representing a University in sport, and rifle shooting is no different. Ask any American rifle shooter that has competed for a University and most will tell you NCAA Championships is one of the hardest matches they have ever competed in.
Having been on that stage myself, I can personally tell you NCAA Championships is one of the most enjoyable and one of the most difficult matches I have ever shot. This year going into Championships it looked like it could be a fight for the ever coveted trophy between two dominate schools (University Alaska Fairbanks, UAF and West Virginia University, WVU), and they did not disappoint. As I sat in the UAF rifle range in which I spent so many hours in, as a student-athlete, I reflected on those feelings that used to come about at Championships. This is the match you work all year for, and your team is relying on you to perform your best. Even more difficult for UAF this year was competing on their home turf. It turned out to be an exciting first day as UAF took the lead by 12 points after day one, but WVU has proven over and over again this year that they are a very dominate air rifle team. Working for ELEY I would like to say I wasn’t biased on who won, however that wasn’t quite the case, of course I wanted to see my Alma Mater take home another first place trophy. Going into the last relay of Air Rifle on Saturday afternoon there were just three points separating the two teams and two shooters per team were left to shoot on the line. Knowing how it feels to shoot in these Championships, I would have to say I believe it is more stressful watching than it is competing. As the last shooters were standing on the line trying to bring home the coveted title of NCAA Champions they did not disappoint and gave the crowd a very exciting match to watch. WVU wrapped up the title after their last shooter took her last shot as UAF had already dropped too many points earlier in the match. Even though it was not my Alma Mater, I watched as the young shooters from WVU came off the line to meet the rest of their teammates and celebrated with a team hug and huge smiles on their faces and I couldn’t help but be happy and proud for them. Both UAF shooters were still on the line battling to shoot 10s not knowing there was no chance to catch WVU. Truly, what was even more impressive was to hear the support from the crowd after each one of the UAF shooters fired their last shot. Until you actually see the excitement and disappointment on these young student athletes faces you may not know just how important this match can be for their careers. To the day I retired, NCAA Championships was one of the most difficult matches I ever shot, right up there with the Olympic Games. It is always nice to see your Alma Mater at the top of the ranks, however, it is with great pride knowing the team that uses selected ELEY Tenex won the championship. Congratulations to all the competitors and I hope to see many of these faces on the International Shooting stage. Jamie Corkish