WVU wins 15th NCAA rifle title

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Mountaineers rifle team, led by senior All-American Petra Zublasing, blistered through the NCAA rifle championships on Saturday en route to a nation’s best 15th national championship.

WVU won the overall title with a score of 4679, nine points ahead of second place finisher Kentucky

“It’s really special for the whole program and I’m really delighted for the team,” said coach John Hammond. “We’ve had a great year, but you really get measured on what happens at championships.”

Zublasing started her final air rifle relay as a Mountaineer by shooting a 9 on her initial shot. She proceeded to consistently fire 10s until shot number 53. Zublasing finished the air rifle competition with a score of 598 and went on to win her second consecutive individual air rifle national championship.

The performance followed an individual national championship in smallbore Zublasing won on Friday.   She becomes the first NCAA shooter to win both individual titles in one weekend since 2001 when Matt Emmons won both titles for Alaska Fairbanks.

Zublasing became the first WVU shooter to win three individual titles in her career.

“I did not come out here expecting to win both titles,” said the Italy native following the awards ceremony in Columbus. “We were very disappointed after yesterday’s performance and I just wanted to shoot as best I could for my team.”

Earlier this season, Zublasing shot a 599 in air rifle and missed a perfect 600 on her final shot. During the air rifle competition on Saturday she took an unplanned break after shot 31 and shooting 30 straight 10’s.

“I fired that 31st shot and I knew it was going to be a 9. I could tell it was going to be a 9 as I shot. I looked down and it was a ten and I told myself I’ve got to take a break I won’t get that lucky again,”  she said. “I came back relaxed everything was fine and I didn’t shoot another 9 until about shot 51 or so.”

It’s the second national championship for Hammond.

“It definitely came down to the wire, it came down to today, and it came down to the second relay and who better to have up there than Petra to pull us through,” said Hammond. “We were definitely disappointed after yesterday, and I said ‘Hey, we have to continue to focus on what we need to be doing.’

‘But it was almost like a get-out-of-jail-free card. We had probably our worst smallbore performance ever and we were still right in the thick of it. It became an air rifle match and we had they confidence to come in and put yesterday behind them and start fresh.”

What isn’t delightful for Hammond is having to say goodbye to Zublasing.

“We’ll miss her for sure,” he said. “A smallbore and an air rifle individual national championship. It’s been a long time since it was done. It’s just an incredible accomplishment by and incredible person and an incredible shooter. But the team moves on and we’ll keep building.”

Zublasing choked up a little when asked about her final moments in a Mountaineers uniform.

“It’s very sad. I fight with them like brothers. I love them, I hate them sometimes. It’s going to be different. I’m going to miss them and my life is going to change,” she said. “I’m glad to be a Mountaineer. I’m very proud.”

Also contributing to WVU’s victory were Maren Prediger, who shot a 591 in air rifle and  576 in smallbore.  Garrett Spurgeon posted a 589 in air rifle and a 576 in smallbore. Meelis Kisk shot a 585 in air rifle and 575 in smallbore competition.

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