The first half of the collegiate rifle season may be over, but before we dive into the 2022 matches, let’s look back at the moments that reminded us all why we love the shooting sports.
No. 1 Alaska-Fairbanks
Head Coach Will Anti has found great success at Alaska-Fairbanks since taking over in August 2020. By the conclusion of that first season, the Alaska-Fairbanks rifle team was ranked No. 15, and now a year later, the first half of the 2021-22 season is over and Alaska-Fairbanks sits at No. 1.
Perhaps the best performance for Coach Anti and his squad this season was a road win in Annapolis against Navy on November 14. During that match, the Alaska-Fairbanks rifle team not only broke the NCAA aggregate match score record (4749), but also shattered the NCAA smallbore rifle team score record (2371). The twist: Navy’s coach is Mike Anti, an Olympic rifle silver medalist and Will’s father. And this coaching tree is nearly as deep as the NFL’s Bill Parcells and Bill Bellichick’s coaching tree—Will’s grandfather, Ray Anti, also coached the Navy team for 12 years after a distinguished Marine Corps career.
As of December 15, 2021, the Alaska-Fairbanks rifle team owns five of the top 10 aggregate match scores for the season, including the top three overall (4749 at Navy, 4737 Citadel Women, 4736 Citadel). Additionally, Alaska-Fairbanks freshman Rylan Kissell holds the honor of posting the top NCAA individual aggregate score for the season with 1194 (598 air rifle, 596 smallbore), which he fired at the Citadel on Halloween. The Alaska-Fairbanks rifle team will return to action on January 14 with a home match against No. 4 Ole Miss.
SEASON HIGH TEAM AGGREGATES
West Virginia in the Hunt
Perennial NCAA rifle powerhouse West Virginia University heads into the break tied with Kentucky at No. 2 in the CRCA poll rankings. Undefeated at 9-0, WVU rifle ended the first half of the season with a big victory on November 14, scoring 4724 at a quad-match against Air Force (4703), Ohio State (4671) and Army (4653). During this match, WVU freshman hotshot Natalie Perrin topped the individual aggregate leaderboard with 1184, helping the Mountaineers sweep air rifle and smallbore.
As for the WVU rifle team shooter with the high individual aggregate score for the season, that honor belongs to sophomore Molly McGhin, who posted 1189 (600 air rifle, 589 smallbore) during a road match against TCU at the X-Count in Fort Wayne, Ind., on November 6. McGhin’s score is the ninth highest NCAA individual aggregate score for the season.
Be on the lookout when the WVU rifle team returns to competition on January 22, when it heads to Annapolis, Md., to take on No. 8 Navy. With 19 titles, WVU is no stranger to the NCAA rifle championship and will surely be in the hunt for another victory at collegiate rifle’s biggest tournament in March.
SEASON HIGH INDIVIDUAL AGGREGATES
Defending Champion Kentucky
After winning the 2021 NCAA rifle championship last March, the No. 2-ranked Kentucky rifle team has a strong chance to take the title once again. Led by two Tokyo Olympic medalists, senior Will Shaner and junior Mary Tucker, Kentucky heads into part two of the season with eyes on the prize. Although a talented squad, nothing is ever guaranteed.
After a tough loss at home to then-No. 4-ranked Ole Miss on November 6, 4716-4675, the defending NCAA rifle champion, Kentucky, dropped from No. 2 to No. 13 in the CRCA rankings. Roaring back to life, Kentucky rifle completed a perfect weekend at home on November 14 against Memphis, 4717-4658. Leading the way for Kentucky were Shaner and Tucker, who topped the individual smallbore and air rifle standings against Memphis. In addition, Shaner’s 1185 score (596 air rifle, 589 smallbore) placed him on top in the individual aggregate. Another big win for Kentucky against Akron on November 20 cemented the Wildcats’ No. 2 ranking going into the second half of the season. Kentucky will begin 2022 competition on the road with a doubleheader against No. 15 Army and No. 11 N.C. State at West Point on January 15.
Talented Akron Team
On October 16, the Akron Zips rifle team traveled to Oxford, Miss., to face the at-the-time No. 2 Ole Miss Rebels. Although Akron fired a respectable 4669 score, Ole Miss lived up to its ranking, winning the match with an impressive tally of 4719. The following day, Akron picked up a victory against No. 7 Memphis, resulting in the Zips moving up to No. 10 in the collegiate rifle rankings.
Later in the season, Akron jumped to No. 7, despite posting a loss to the then-No. 5-ranked Murray State on November 6. Strong shooting from the Akron rifle team pushed them into the top 10. The aforementioned loss against Kentucky on November 20 placed Akron at No. 13 heading into the spring session. Akron will next take on No. 10 Nebraska in Cornhusker territory on January 15.
Read more: Collegiate Rifle: 5 Teams Post Aggregates Above 4700