MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Many years ago when I first started in this job, I was at the WVU Rifle Range to cover a match. I had never been exposed to rifle as a sport. Like most of us, I grew up shooting, but the competitive element of shooting was a foreign concept.
When I went to the range, the only facts I really understood were: A. West Virginian’s like to shoot. B. WVU is the best rifle team in the nation. C. I have a radio show which should cover the team.
I got an education.
I learned the air rifle competition used the same .177 pellet we shot in our Crossman air rifles as a kid. The smallbore .22 rimfire shells looked exactly like those I use to hunt rabbits and squirrels. Any similarities to any shooting I have ever done ended right there. The equipment is highly sophisticated from the rifles to the apparel. It’s all aimed at keeping your body tight and steady as you take shot after shot. Breathing, thinking, resting, exerting, motions, and rhythm are just a few of the aspects which are part of shooting effectively.
Shooters train constantly for muscle memory. Once you’ve hit a perfect shot, the idea is to keep repeating whatever you did to make it happen. The muscle memory and the repetition is the goal. Competitive shooters do it in a variety of ways. One WVU shooter told me she would always listen to music right up until it was time to shoot. The tune she was hearing stayed in her head and her motions between shots were done to the beat of the music which continued to reverberate in her brain. We’ve all had a song stuck in our head, but never deliberately.
There is plenty I’ll never know about shooting at a world class level, but it is fascinating to watch. This weekend, West Virginians are finally getting a chance to see it unfold live and in living color. Hopefully you can take advantage of the opportunity.
WVU is hosting the NCAA Rifle Championships for the first time in school history. The WVU Coliseum is transformed into a rifle range. Projection screens will give you a chance to see each shot as it is made. However, you’ll see many in the crowd with their phone tuned to this website–which you can also use on any computer to watch the progress.
A little information. The red dot is the most recent shot, the green ones are previous shots. The best possible shot score is a 10.9, but anything in the 10 ring is worth maximum points. You’ll figure it out as you go and there will be plenty of folks to help you through the learning curve.
Hopefully the state will start to gain an even greater appreciation of what world class shooters can do, and just how many West Virginia University has in its stable.
There’s no question with 19 National Titles, the state loves its rifle team, but the day I made my first visit to the range one of the school’s shooters explained it to me best.
“People love what we do,” he said “But nobody has any clue what we do.”