University of Akron's Matthew Chezem awarded high shooter title
Columbus, Ohio - Absent and unable to defend their national title, the void left by Michigan State University ensured both team and individual champions would be brand new at this year's NRA Intercollegiate Rifle Club Championships
But though there were more than enough volunteers to step up and wear the crowns, only a select few shooters out of the dozens present would get the chance.
After two days of shooting at the US Army Marksmanship Unit's Pool International Range Complex, a different team from the Great Lakes State was who stood alone. Besting the Penn State University by 74 points with a score of 4363 to 4289, the University of Michigan were the 2013 team champions.
Entering the second of the championship's two matches, smallbore, the Wolverines had a considerable lead on the second place Clemson Tigers and third place Penn State Nittany Lions. Barring any catastrophes, Michigan needed only hold steady with their lead and the championship would be theirs, but stranger endings have happened and every shot counts.
Receiving a solid, all-around group effort, the Michigan shooters pulled together to secure their national championship win with 74 points on Penn State, who had toppled Clemson by 12.
Team chemistry is a common trait in championship winners (minus a few Yankees clubhouses). Was it any different with Michigan?
"The whole team is driven to do well. They go to practice to challenge each other to become better," said Coach Michael O'Connor. He then added with a laugh that "they also listen to me and the assistant coach, which always helps."
After falling short each year since the championship's inception in 2010, Michigan finally took the title to their side of the state.
"They focused on wanting to do well," O'Connor said. "They wanted to win the national championship and that was the goal they worked on."
The top shooter this year resided a little south of the winning team. Matthew Chezem of the University of Akron had also fallen short previously, only to rise to the occasion this year with a big win. Entering the Smallbore Championship in third, a strong finish of 10s edged Chezem past New Mexico State University's Katie Gorman 565 to 563 - of a potential 600. While the finish wasn't quite the same as the perfect string from Michigan's Ying Yi Liu during air rifle, it was enough to get the job done.
"I wasn't focusing on the outcome those last few shots, just the process: sight picture, trigger control, follow through," said Chezem. "It generally works," he laughed.
His smallbore score was good enough to propel him into first overall with a 1132 of 1200. Gorman stayed second, but now six points behind.
Before this year's championship, Matthew spent a considerable amount of time honing his skills.
"I might spend three hours just fiddling with my foot, trying to get it perfect," he said. "Once i get that, it's time to move on to the next bite-sized chunk."
Gracious about his win, Chezem has his sights set on even bigger goals in the future.
"Next year I'm going to be on the NCAA team at the University of Akron, but my main goal is to make the Olympic team for Rio," he said.
Good luck, Matt. We'll be rooting for you.
|2013 NRA Intercollegiate Rifle Club Individual Championship
||Ying Yi Liu
|2013 NRA Intercollegiate Rifle Club Team Championship
||University of Michigan
||Penn State University