The No. 3 West Virginia University rifle team is returning for their spring season after a long break.
The rifle team finished up fall competition undefeated at Navy in November. The Mountaineers currently hold a 4676 season average halfway through their first season.
Many of the Mountaineers were looking forward to the break to be able to rest and prepare for the short but difficult spring season ahead.
Several members of the team competed at the USA Shooting Winter Air Gun Championships at the United States Olympic Training Facility in Colorado Springs, Colo., in early December. Each competitor competed each day for three days – Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Sophomore Garrett Spurgeon finished sixth overall with an aggregate score of 1852.5 after the three-day competition, followed by junior Meelis Kiisk, who came in 11th place overall after finishing the competition with 1845.4 total score.
Redshirt freshman Jean-Pierre Lucas shot a total of 1837.3, placing 14th overall in the competition.
Junior Thomas Kyanko finished with an overall score of 1842.7 for the weekend, and senior Chance Cover shot 602.1 on Friday, 603.3 Saturday, and 600.5 Sunday for an overall score of 1805.9.
Spurgeon and Lucas also received news they were selected for the 2014 Bavarian Airgun Championships junior level shooting. The championships are held in Munich, Germany, Jan. 19-26.
The second half of this season will go by quickly for the Mountaineers as they will only compete against five teams before postseason competition starts, so every score matters, and the team knows it.
The Mountaineers open up their spring season Sunday against Great American Conference rival North Carolina State at home.
Their next match will be on the road against Murray State Jan. 24 at the Winthrow Invitational in Murray, Ky., followed by a quick turnaround match against Memphis Jan. 25.
The Mountaineers will face their toughest competition of the season in the same weekend.
On Feb. 6, the Mountaineers will host Alaska Fairbanks. Alaska sits at the top of the NCAA rankings, followed by No. 2 Kentucky, who the Mountaineers will host Sunday, Feb. 8 in Morgantown.
Kentucky competed against Alaska-Fairbanks in its final match of the season. Alaska defeated the Wildcats, 4695-4689.
The Mountaineers match against Kentucky and Alaska-Fairbanks in the conclusion of their regular season.
Postseason for the rifle team begins Feb. 22 when the Mountaineers travel to Murray, Ky., for NCAA Qualifiers.
GARC Championships will go be held March 1-2.
Following the GARC Championships is the NCAA Championships, which are being held in Murray, Ky., this year and start on March 14.
Knowing WVU’s championship history, many people expect the Mountaineers to repeat, possibly even themselves, but it’s not always that easy, explained Spurgeon.
“There are a lot of pressures and expectations from last year,” he said. “You have to put those in perspective. It’s a new year, and we’re going to have new challenges. Obviously everyone wants to repeat, but that’s practically unheard of.”