Haven't had much time to swing by the nation over the past few months, winter is a busy time for me. Anyway, there have been a few Rifle Matches with some mixed results. Overall, the Zips lost to OSU at the NCAA qualifier though they won the Air Rifle match. Who knows, we might have another Zips competing for an individual National Championship this year.
Benjamin Leads Akron at Qualifier
For the second week in a row the Akron Rifle Team traveled to The Ohio State University only this time to compete in the NCAA Qualifier match. In attendance at the qualifier were Akron, OSU, Rose Hulman and Purdue. At the end of a long day of competition, Akron (4573) finished behind OSU (4606) and ahead of Rose (4438) and Purdue (1310, sb only). These qualifier scores will be added to the average of the three best season scores to determine the final rankings and the invitations to the NCAA Championships in March. This is a good qualifier score for Akron but not enough to move them up into the top 8 teams who will be invited to the Championships.
For Akron the day belonged to sophomore Sarah Benjamin. Starting off with smallbore, Benjamin shattered her career best score of 572 set back in 08 with an incredible 578. This performance earned her the second place silver medal behind OSU’s Amanda Furrer (590). Third and the bronze went to buckeye Gina Cheliras (572) and Akron’s Ryan Stein took 4th with his 567. A little further down, but worth noting, upcoming freshman Alissa Martin turned in a great score by tying her personal best of 551.
As if being in the spotlight was not enough, Benjamin really turned up the heat in the air rifle division. Besting her career high 587, Benjamin tied the school record air rifle score of 590. To put things in perspective, last year’s score of 587 earned teammate Jenna Compton a trip to the NCAA championships, where her score of 590 lead to winning the national championship. Although Benjamin’s top gun, gold medal performance was not uncontested as OSU’s Amanda Furrer also fired a 590 but finished 2nd in the tie breaker. The excitement did not end there as once all added up, OSU and Akron team scores were tied. At first it looked like OSU would take it when an addition error put OSU ahead, but then another challenge eked Akron ahead by a mere two points, 2314 to 2312. This gave Akron the air rifle championship in addition to the prestigious individual gold medal adorning Benjamin. What an exciting event for Akron! “No doubt about it, OSU is really tough this year,” states coach Newt Engle, “but what a great time for Sarah to step up and lead us to this victory.” The huge question, “Will this performance earn Benjamin a trip to the NCAA’s?” will be answered in a little more than a week when the NCAA committee completes the selection process.
Timing is the name of the game as Akron, OSU, and several other schools who are members of the Western Intercollegiate Rifle Conference will travel to a new shooting venue at Michigan State University next weekend for the WIRC championships. Going into this championship, Akron, OSU, and Morehead State University of KY are all running neck to neck in both smallbore and air rifle. This championship promises to be as highly contested, if not more so, than this past weekend’s match. The lead will be flying starting at 8am on Saturday the 20th of February eventually determining the 2010 WIRC Champions later in the day. “Our team’s challenge will be to concentrate on the importance of every single shot”, states Engle.