Who has the best shot at this year's NCAA Rifle title in Ohio State?
Fairfax, Virginia - Tomorrow NRAblog heads out to Columbus, Ohio for the 2013 NCAA Rifle Championships at Ohio State University. There, eight teams will vie for the title through the Smallbore Championships on Friday and the Air Rifle Championship on Saturday. Who's going to take home the ultimate prize this weekend? Only NRAblog knows. (Okay, that's a lie.)
The competitors were selected by combining the average of a team's three highest regular-season aggregate scores (no more than one match per site) with their aggregate from the designated NCAA qualifiers. Mathematically, we have a good idea of who is going to do what on gameday, but how will it play out this weekend? We need to wait and see.
Any of the eight teams present have the ability to win and shouldn't be counted out, but to us there are three top contenders: West Virginia University, Texas Christian University and University of Kentucky.
West Virginia is a powerful team that sat at No. 1 for almost the entire year. Senior Petra Zublasing was recently named the Great American Rifle Conference Senior and Rifle Shooter of the Year. The team also has a great influx of youth evidenced in Freshman Garrett Spurgeon winning GARC Rookie of the Year. West Virginia is solid and definitely has the potential to bring the school its 15th NCAA Rifle title.
Texas Christian, winners in 2012 and 2010, is led by the hydra of seniors Sarah Beard, Caitlin Morrissey and Sarah Scherer. The whole team is capable of holding its own, but these three are looking to cap off one of the best runs in the sport - certainly the school, whose first title came in 2010 - with a third championship in four years. Scherer was a member of Team USA at this past year's London 2012 Summer Olympics and is had a great regular season. Look for a very high score from the Horned Frogs this weekend.
Kentucky, 2011 champion, narrowly left Ohio State last year with another national championship. A year later, and just as strong, the Wildcats are only a couple days from redemption. Their core of veterans Heather Greathouse, Emily Holsopple and Henri Junghanel are all strong shooters and have plenty of experience in what it takes to win a championship. Sitting at No. 3 behind West Virginia and Texas Christian was no blemish to their record as all three teams excelled in the regular season.
So who will win? You guess is as good as any. Each team has its own set of strengths and weaknesses that may or may not come into play this weekend. We'll say with near-certainty that it's going to be close.