West Virginia University's No. 3 ranked rifle team captured its 14th national championship Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth, Texas, at the TCU Rifle Range and the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum. The title is the first for the WVU rifle program since 1998.
The Mountaineers won the team air rifle competition today, shooting a staggering 2353 score to propel them to the championship with an overall aggregate score of 4643, seven points better than second-place Jacksonville State (4636). Navy finished second in air rifle with a 2327 while Jacksonville State tallied a 2324, good for third.
It is the highest finish for the Mountaineers at nationals since a third-place finish in 2001.
"Yesterday wasn't a good day," third-year coach Jon Hammond said of yesterday's sixth-place smallbore finish after the team shot a 2290 in smallbore. "Everyone was disappointed in their performance. We weren't even thinking national championship today, rather to just come out and shoot well in air rifle."
WVU's air rifle squad was led by redshirt junior Bryant Wallizer's 691.6 air rifle aggregate score, good for second place nationally and only sixth tenths of a point behind Akron's Jenna Compton who captured the individual national title in the discipline. Also counting in today's air rifle scores were Andy Lamson's third place 689.7, Tommy Santelli's fifth place 687.5 and Michael Kulbacki's 686.9. The foursome finished in the top six in the individual air event.
"We've been one of the best air teams all year and the pressure was off," Hammond added. "All four of them (Wallizer, Lamson, Santelli and Kulbacki) came out and stuck to their job, really. They just focused on what they could control. Having all four in the final and in the top six speaks wonders to their talent levels. Bryant was a little disappointed that he didn't win the individual national championship. But our depth showed today and the turnaround from yesterday to today is incredible. It's one of the biggest comebacks I've see since I've been in the sport."
Hammond becomes the fourth Mountaineer coach to guide West Virginia to the national championship; Marsha Beasley (1990-2006) won eight titles, Ed Etzel (1977-87; 1989) won four and Greg Perrine won it all in 1988. From 1983 to 1998 WVU either won the NCAA Championship or was the national runner-up.
"It's amazing really. It's been over 10 years for the program to have won a national title and to do it in this fashion is incredible. I'm happy for our team and our program. The whole thing will sink in in the next week or so and we'll really realize then what we've accomplished."