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The No. 1-ranked West Virginia University rifle team won its nation-best 15th national title today at Ohio State’s French Field House with a two-day total of 4679.
The Mountaineers overcame a one-shot smallbore deficit and outshot the field in air rifle, scoring 2363. Senior Petra Zublasing was near-perfect, shooting 598 (99-100-100-100-100-99) in the second relay and 103.7 in the final to secure her second national title of the weekend, and the third of her career, with combined total of 701.7. The Appiano, Italy, native won the smallbore championship yesterday with a 688.3 score. Zublasing is the first shooter to win both NCAA titles at one championship since Alaska-Fairbanks’ Matthew Emmons took the victories in 2001.
“It’s a great feeling to win. I’m so happy for the team members, all of the parents and our supporters,” says seventh-year coach Jon Hammond. “It’s been a long year, and a tough couple of days here, but I’m so proud of this team and delighted at this fantastic result for us.
“They all may have had their own struggles this weekend, but each one of these shooters shot to the best of his capabilities this weekend. We just shot the best today, and that’s what helped us win.”
“Winning an individual title in both guns is just great, but I’m most happy that the team won,” says Zublasing. “This team worked so hard over the last two seasons, and we finally earned our award. I’m really excited to leave WVU with these wins.”
“Petra was our difference maker today,” adds Hammond. “She is our team leader. The other teams’ leaders all struggled a bit today, but Petra did not. It’s incredible for her to win both individual titles this weekend and the team championship. So many records and so much history at WVU, and she’s really left her mark on the program.”
The Mountaineers’ victory is their first since winning the 2009 title. The team is the only WVU program to ever win a national championship. Today’s title is the second career for Hammond.
“I think 15 is our number right now, and until that number changes, it’s the only number we’ll think about,” says Hammond of the team’s possibility to defend its title in 2014. “The core of the team comes back next year. Petra is a tough shooter to lose, but we’ll still have that depth that we had this year. Hopefully, the great experiences of this weekend will help everyone get better next year.”
WVU’s winning aggregate score is the second-highest in NCAA history; Kentucky won the 2011 title with a 4700.
The No. 2 Wildcats finished second overall with an aggregate total of 4670. UK, the only team to defeat WVU this season, also finished second in air rifle with a 2355 score. No. 3 TCU, the defending national champions, placed third with a 4664 score; the Horned Frogs won smallbore yesterday with a 2317 total.
Zublasing is the second WVU student-athlete to win three career national titles, as wrestler Greg Jones earned a trio of titles in 2002, 2004 and 2005. She is the fourth Mountaineer to win two career air titles, and the first since Trevor Gathman finished first in 1993 and 1996. A WVU shooter has now won the NCAA air rifle championship each season since 2011.
With her two wins this weekend, Zublasing, the Mountaineers’ 16th rifle national champion, brings WVU’s individual title count to 22.
Sophomore Maren Prediger also shot in today’s air rifle final and finished eighth overall with a 692.1 score. The Petersaurach, Germany, native shot a relay-best 591 (96-100-99-100-99-97) in the day’s first competition and 101.1 in the final.
Freshman Garrett Spurgeon and sophomore Meelis Kiisk gave the Mountaineers a solid lead in the first air rifle relay, as they shot 589 and 585, respectively. Combined with Prediger’s 591 relay mark, WVU owned a seven-shot advantage before Zublasing and sophomore Taylor Ciotola took to the line for the second relay. Ciotola finished the day with a 576 mark.
WVU placed third in smallbore yesterday with a 2316 score.
The Mountaineers, the four-time reigning Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) champions, finished the 2012-13 campaign with an 11-1 overall record and a 5-1 conference mark.
National Rifle Association (NRA) All-America honors will be awarded later this weekend.
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