An experienced West Virginia squad of four seniors, along with an up-and-coming freshman, traveled to Akron, Ohio this weekend with a singular goal in mind: bringing a fourth straight national championship trophy back to Morgantown.
With victories in the smallbore and air rifle competitions over the past two days to the tune of a combined score of 4703, the Mountaineers did just that, besting the field of eight schools at the NCAA Championships and extending its run of dominance in the sport.
“It’s awesome. It’s such a huge credit to the team. They’ve been one of the best teams we’ve had. One of their strengths all year has been consistency. To do that at the championship as well, to be able to win both events was a great achievement. So it was obviously a great feeling to do that and take home all three trophies,” said WVU head coach Jon Hammond.
The Mountaineers’ score in this weekend’s championship was the second-best ever recorded, only short of the 4705 they posted in 2014 by two points.
Freshman Ginny Thrasher was the star of West Virginia’s weekend title push, winning the smallbore individual championship Friday, beating out senior teammate Meelis Kiisk by six shots for the crown.
Thrasher continued her dominance today, advancing to the individual finals in the air rifle competition as well after shooting 593 in the team event. She emerged victorious from that event too, sweeping the individual honors for smallbore and air rifle on the weekend.
“Ginny’s had an amazing year as well. I think, as a staff, we knew she was capable of this. She wins almost every final we have in practice. It’s ridiculous. Two weeks ago at GARC she won the smallbore final championship and was second in air rifle. Her commitment to her process and her commitment to the things we’ve talked to her about and coached her (on) has been amazing. She’s such a hard worker that she deserves everything from this weekend,” Hammond said.
For Hammond, a 2003 WVU graduate, today’s championship marked the fifth he has helped bring home since signing on to lead the program in the 2006-07 season. For his class of seniors, it was a perfect bookend to a career full of trophies.
“It’s awesome to see that for them. It’s not just four years. It’s often five years, and even further back in the recruiting process getting to know them and their families. They all have very different, crazy stories,” Hammond said.
With four seniors dwarfing her on the podium, Thrasher stood center stage, which was appropriate considering how she performed over the past two days. As West Virginia wore out a path to the first place podium, Hammond handed Thrasher the trophy each time, but offered a humorous and practical reason for doing so.
“She was just in the middle. We’re a team at the end of the day as well. It was also great to have our full team here as it were, because it’s a team effort throughout the year. Five of them have to shoot this match, and it’s a hard match, but the other team members, it’s hard for them too,” he said.
“They have to deal with the disappointment of not being here, but they still come and support the team and do what they can to make it the best team that they can. We just wanted them all to be part of it. Sometimes the smaller ones are at the front of the pictures.”