By Kyle Jillson | March 12 2013 18:43

West Point strikes back in the NRA Intercollegiate Pistol Championships

Heather Deppe from the United States Military Academy wins Women's Air Pistol Championship

Columbus, Georgia - Army Cadets were starting from behind. Watching as their rivals from the Naval Academy laid claim to the first prize of the Intercollegiate Pistol Championship, Army stormed back in the second half to capture team and individual titles in NRA Women's Air Pistol Championships.

Four of the five championships remained unclaimed, but the wins would not come easy. The marksmanship, patience and swagger developed throughout the winter pistol season would be put to the test. Especially in the second overall championship — Women's Air Pistol.

The Naval Academy won Women's Air Pistol for the last three years. While the team has always been solid, it was the performance of last year's Overall Women champ Emily Meyer that truly made a difference. But Meyer isn't here. She graduated in 2012.

The same could not be said for Army's star shooter.

Firing line at NRA Women's Air Pistol Championships

Enter Heather Deppe. Winner of the 2011 Women's Overall championship, Deppe experienced a number of narrow defeats to Meyer over the past few seasons. But Meyer was gone. The title was her's to take. The one match that always eluded her.

Taking to the line in teams of three, Women's Air Pistol competitors placed forty rounds on target from ten meters. They were allotted seventy-five minutes to make their shots. Like Free Pistol, the top eight shooters were then selected to participate in a ten shot final to determine the champ.

Air pistol and pellets at NRA Women's Air Pistol Championships

The match is shot with 4.5 mm caliber air guns. Competitors take a standing, unsupported position and, when ready, fire on target from a one handed stance. Such an act has little affect on the shooters because of the fast lock times. In other words, the air guns produce hardly a hint of recoil and are vacation free. That translates into minimal overall movement or balance shifts upon firing ... thus making it easier to shoot for a longer period of time.

But time wasn't what Army needed. Army needed a win. Forty shots later, range officers ordered a cease fire and it was Army's turn to celebrate.

North Dakota State University shooter at the NRA Women's Air Pistol Championships

Maybe the Free Pistol finish earlier today wasn't exciting enough. What other reason could there be for the rival service academies to produce such a nailbiter in round two? Winning their first Women's Air Pistol Championship in seven years, the West Point team unseated the ladies of Annapolis by just a single point, 1085 to 1084.

The team celebration would have to wait. Now was the time for the individual championships. Time for Deppe to focus on achieving her goal.

Yale pistol team at the NRA Women's Air Pistol Championships

Shooting a 374 in the regular match left Deppe in second place. She'd go into the finals a mere one point behind the leader — Courtney Anthony from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Now was the time for concentration. To block out distractions and focus on the goal. One point behind with ten shots to go. Forget about the crowds, her desire for the unobtainable title and the scorecard flashing on the monitors above. Not a simple task.

United States Naval Academy shooter at the NRA Women's Air Pistol Championships

"I put on my hat because I saw the monitors before I arrived at the finals area," Deppe laughed. "I was like 'that is going to be so distracting.'"

Shot after shot the West Point cadet got closer to her goal. After number ten she finally peaked at the scorecard to find she achieved a 100, bumping her score to 474.

And what of Anthony in first position? She finished with a 91.6 and a 466.6, 7.4 points behind Deppe. Commendable, but not enough.

2013 NRA Women's Air Pistol Finals at Fort Benning

"It feels great," Deppe said. "I put a lot of extra time, extra energy to make sure my shot plan was solid. The rubber met the road today and it paid off."

But the Championships are far from over. Three more matches are still on the schedule. Anyone can still lay claim to any one of the remaining thrones.

Cadet Heather Deppe of the United States Military Academy at the NRA Women's Air Pistol Championships

It all starts tomorrow morning with the Standard Pistol Championships. Competitors will be called to the line at 9:00am. Sharp.

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