Many people recognize WVU rifle for its championship pedigree, which is fair, considering WVU rifle leads the nation with 15 national championships under its belt and has produced 30 Olympians throughout the years.
Two of the 15 championships have come within the last five years.
It all comes from the championship history that WVU rifle has displayed and the man who brought that pedigree back to WVU.
Head coach Jon Hammond restored the WVU rifle program back to glory within a few short seasons. Under his watch, the rifle team has won two national championships, earned four consecutive Great American Conference appearances, won four individual NCAA titles, and completed two undefeated seasons.
Before Hammond arrived in 2006, the Mountaineers had not won a national title since 1997. Hammond took over the program after long-time coach Marsha Beasley retired in 2006.
In his first season as head coach, Hammond led the Mountaineers to their first winning record since 2003, finishing 6-4 for the season.
In the next season they improved to 8-3 overall and finish No. 3 in the GARC Championships and No. 6 in NCAAs.
It normally would take coaches several years to bring a program back to where WVU has been for the last couple of years, and Hammond said he credits his recruitment.
“My recruitment is very broad. We have shooters from all over the world, many with competition experience at a national and international level,” he said.
Hammond currently has four international shooters on his team, many of them having experience competing at a national and international level.
Junior Maren Prediger hails from Petersaurach, Germany, where she earned a spot on the German National Team in 2013. Prediger is averaging 595 in air rifle and 576 in smallbore this season.
Junior Meelis Kiisk originates from Paide, Estonia, and is one of the few shooters that would say his strength lies in smallbore. Kiisk averages 579 in smallbore and 588 in air rifle.
Junior Ziva Dvorsak hails from Ljubljana, Slovenia. Dvorsak joined the Mountaineers in January 2014 and has immediately contributed, many times winning the events.
Dvorsak finished first in smallbore in her first match for the Mountaineers, earning a 589 in the discipline. She averages 596 in air rifle and 585 in smallbore.
“I saw her shoot for two or three years on the international circuit. Just from talking to her at the World Cup, she’s obviously very mature and you can tell she’s focused,” Hammond said.
“I knew that she wouldn’t have too much trouble adjusting.”
Hammond said one of the big differences in his team in contrast to others is the amount of depth the Mountaineers have.
“We have a considerable amount of depth on this team, not just from the top five. Any of our shooters would be competitive on any other team.”
The Mountaineers enter postseason No. 1 in the nation and are the defending national champions. They know they are the targets, as they have a chance to earn a consecutive national title.