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Barnick wins air rifle; Mountaineers finish runner-up to TCU

— By Cody Nespor, The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Heading into the final two shots of the individual air rifle championship Saturday, West Virginia junior Gavin Barnick trailed Kentucky’s Braden Peiser by three-tenths of a point, 230.6 to 230.3.

Barnick hit 10.8 on the penultimate shot to take the lead and scored 10.6 on the final to clinch his first career individual national championship.

“It was a tough final,” Barnick said. “I’ve shot a lot against Braden, we grew up shooting against each other. It felt really good to win and to bring another individual championship title home.”

Barnick finished with a score of 251.7, ahead of Peiser’s 251.2. Peiser’s final two shots were 10.1 and 10.5.

“I was behind before the 10.8, so I took it as I gave myself a chance,” Barnick said. “I looked up (before the final shot) and we were within a few tenths of each other.”

Barnick jumped into the lead right away in the final round, shooting the best opening series of the eight finalists.

“The air rifle round is a little bit shorter so it’s harder to make up a deficit. It’s only 24 shots total,” WVU coach Jon Hammond explained. “He started strong and just stayed in the mix and was able to hang on.”

Barnick’s win completed a sweep of the individual titles for the Mountaineers during the two-day NCAA Rifle National Championship inside the WVU Coliseum.

Senior Mary Tucker won gold in the individual smallbore final on Friday. Tucker also finished third in the air rifle final and was named the event’s most outstanding performer.

“It’s nice to have that and end my career on a higher note,” said Tucker, who has been selected to compete for Team USA at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France later this year.

Tucker finished with the highest individual aggregate score of 1,193, scoring 597 in the air rifle relay on Saturday. The other shooters for WVU Saturday were Barnick (598), Grifin Lake (590), Molly McGhin (591) and Matt Sanchez (588).

It was the first time since 2017 that WVU had individual champions in both disciplines and the sixth time overall. 

The Mountaineers posted a perfect 13-0 record in the regular season and finish the year as the national runners-up. WVU totaled 4729 points, finishing three behind National Champion TCU and 10 ahead of third-place Alaska Fairbanks.

Final Team Standings

  1. TCU – 4732
  2. West Virginia – 4729
  3. Alaska Fairbanks – 4719
  4. Kentucky – 4718
  5. Air Force – 4709
  6. Navy – 4698
  7. Ole Miss – 4693
  8. Nebraska – 4680

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