Rifle team continues to hit mark
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 06:02
This isn’t a desperate plea for students and Mountaineer fans of all walks of life to drop everything they’re doing and start beating their collective chests in support of the No. 1 West Virginia rifle team.
Nobody’s trying to convince you to don body paint, show up in droves and tailgate for the next contest the Mountaineers compete in – though, admittedly, I think that would be a lot of fun.
A little barbeque and smallbore never hurt anyone, am I right? Sounds like the makings of a nice little Saturday.
The rifle team really gets an unfair cut in the fans’ perspective of intercollegiate athletics at this institution. When it does well – which is often – praise is offered as a kind of half-hearted, "Hey, you guys are great, but we aren’t that interested," kind of deal.
When it does badly, nobody even knows because nobody is talking about it.
Right now, West Virginia is the top-ranked team in the country and just broke a national air rifle record it set earlier this season.
The Great American Rifle Conference Championships (GARC) are coming up this weekend, and the team’s trajectory is trending toward perhaps another conference and maybe even national championship. You still don’t care.
And that’s fine.
Regardless of how much you know about competitive rifle shooting or the team that competes here, I can tell you people truly do have a sense of pride about the success this team achieves. That’s part of what it means to compete under the effervescent devotion of West Virginia fans.
Whether they openly express it at convenient times or don’t even realize it, Mountaineer fans have at least some appreciation for the success West Virginia has been able to achieve.
What’s best about the West Virginia rifle team is how it continues to thrive regardless of the ever-shifting landscape of college athletics.
Schools change conferences, coaches leave after making promises and 18-22 year-old kids do stupid, unpredictable things. Things like money and television reign supreme. Forty percent of the team’s roster is foreign.
But through all the noise and all the change, the rifle team moves on, straight shot after straight shot.
Jon Hammond, now in his seventh-year as head coach of the rifle team, spent this off-season competing in the Olympics. So did senior Petra Zublasling. You can’t make this stuff up.
We don’t have to pretend to like or understand competitive shooting. Before I started working here in the spring of 2010, I honestly didn’t know a single thing about the rifle team, which was just coming off of a national championship run.
Once, somebody asked me if the rifle team was a club sport.
You’re not going to jump in and become rabid fans of the sport, but I’ll say I’ve certainly become an ardent supporter of what the team stands for.
Last year, Hammond invited our rifle beat writer, Alex Sims, to come watch one of the team’s practices. He even let him shoot with the team.
They are a group of unbridled, uncompromised competitors breaking records and winning matches with a chilling sense of purpose and precision.
So the next time somebody mentions the rifle team to you as a Mountaineer fan, tell them the honest truth.
You don’t know a single thing about them, but you’re damn proud of what they have done.