After spending some time around West Virginia's national championship winning rifle team a few things start to become apparent. The first thing that sticks out is that each shooter is knowledgeable and well-spoken, the second is that that each one has completely bought into head coach Jon Hammond's methods. Considering the fact that Hammond now has five consecutive titles under his belt, that's probably a good idea.
No matter which shooter you talk to, they will tell you that their focus never waivers from the fundamentals and shooting the next shot. Freshman Morgan Phillips is no different in that regard and as a result the freshman brought home the weekend's MVP award, an individual smallbore championship and a second place in the air rifle discipline. In fact, Phillips was so focused on her own craft that she failed to realize West Virginia had won team title in the smallbore until later in the night when she returned to the hotel.
"I didn't actually know that we won the smallbore title until we got back to the hotel and had a team meeting," admitted Phillips. "We were just trying not to focus on the score and we were just focusing on our performance. We were all happy to win the smallbore title but we came back today and re-focused and did our job."
How about her individual championship? You guessed it, she stayed focused on the task at hand, which in turn helped her overcome her nerves entering the final.
"Winning (an individual national championship) was great," said Phillips. "Going into the match I got a little nervous as soon as the time started ticking down but I just worked on the things that we had been working on in practice and I knew I did my job for the team performance so I got to the final and just had fun with it."
The highlight of the weekend, from a spectator's perspective anyways, may have been when Phillips was edged out by fellow teammate Milica Babic for the individual air rifle title. Both shooters traded leads and even shot a 10.9 (a perfect shot) on the second to last shot in the competition. Although Phillips came out on the wrong end of that one, she was more than pleased to see her teammate come home with the gold and she discussed the final.
"I really just focused on my process coming down the target and followed through with my shot. That's all I was thinking about in the final. I wasn't really worried about the gap or anything."
A lot of athletes like to constantly repeat the company line in interviews but many don't actually follow through on it. Phillips, and the other Mountaineer shooters for that matter, practice what they preach and the result is one of the most successful dynasties in all of college athletics.