By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
COLUMBUS, Ohio —
West Virginia University senior Petra Zublasing shot 688.3 and won the 2013 NCAA smallbore title Friday at the NCAA Rifle Championships at Ohio State’s Converse Hall.
The No. 1-ranked WVU rifle team shot 2316 smallbore and sits in third place after the team competition.
The Mountaineers (11-1, 5-1 GARC) are only one shot short of first place, as No. 3 TCU won smallbore with a 2317 score. WVU is tied with No. 4 Alaska-Fairbanks, though the Nanooks are ahead of the Mountaineers in the standings due to a 114-104 center-shot advantage. No. 2 Kentucky sits in fourth with a 2315 score.
Only nine shots separate the top six teams after Friday’s smallbore competition. No. 8 Air Force is in fifth place with a 2311 score, and No. 6 Army is in sixth place with a 2308 total. No. 7 Nebraska is seventh (2297), while No. 5 Jacksonville State is eighth (2281).
“Our score isn’t what we wanted today, but we’re right in the thick of things after day one, and that’s where everyone wants to be at this championship,” Mountaineer coach Jon Hammond said. “It’s a relief to know that tomorrow is a new day and we can start again, but I have no idea what to expect. I think we just have to focus on ourselves again and shoot the best match we can. It’s probably going to be a bit of a grind, but we need to be self-focused. We’re confident in air gun, but all of the teams are tight. Tomorrow’s competition is what the NCAA Championships is all about.”
Zublasing, an Appiano, Italy, native, won her second national title in as many seasons, as she is the defending NCAA air rifle champion. She is the first shooter to win an NCAA title in both disciplines since Alaska-Fairbanks’ Jamie Beyerle won the air rifle title in 2003 and the smallbore title in 2006. Zublasing is the first Mountaineer to win an NCAA title in both disciplines.
With Friday’s victory, 16 student-athletes from the WVU rifle program have won 21 NCAA individual titles. Zublasing is the first Mountaineer to claim the smallbore title since Marco Scrivner won the championship in 1997.
“It feels weird to win,” Zublasing said. “My last five shots in the final weren’t so good, but I did better than everyone else, and that’s all that matters. I didn’t expect this; I just wanted to shoot well today. I couldn’t control what everyone else shot. Everyone struggled a little bit today, so it made for a close competition in the final, which was nice. I did my best. There’s only one shot I could have changed.
“To have a title in both disciplines is so cool. I’m most excited for my parents – they can now say their daughter won two NCAA championships.”
“Today was a fantastic result for Petra,” Hammond added. “I think we’re all delighted to see her win a title, especially after winning air rifle last year. She battled all day – she didn’t shoot her best match, but she shot a great final. It was exciting to watch. I think her win was a positive way for the team to finish today, and I think it will give us all extra momentum going in to tomorrow. Petra’s win may be the edge we need.”
Zublasing entered the final in second place. Though she was tied with UK’s Henri Junghanel with a 589 (197 prone, 194 standing, 198 kneeling) relay mark, Junghanel owned the edge moving into the final with a 36-35 center-shot advantage. Zublasing took the title with a 99.3 total in the 10-shot final. Junghanel finished second with a 687.8 score, shooting 98.8 in the final, while TCU’s Sarah Scherer placed third with a 686.7 score (588, 98.7).
The win was Zublasing’s second smallbore victory in three weeks, as the Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Shooter and Senior of the Year also won the conference smallbore title on Feb. 23 with a school-record 595 score.
WVU was the only team to place two shooters in the eight-man final, and sophomore Thomas Kyanko, an individual qualifier for Friday’s championships, placed seventh with a 675.9 score (580, 95.9). The Wellsburg native entered the final in seventh place after shooting 580 (197 prone, 189 standing, 194 kneeling) in the day’s first relay.
“I’m really pleased for Thomas,” Hammond said. “He had different conditions to shoot under today, but he shot a solid match early in the morning, and the final experience he gained today is great. I know he should be pleased with today, and I’m excited that he ended his season on a solid note.”
Though WVU’s smallbore score puts the Mountaineers in a great position for a strong finish, it was the team’s lowest point total of the season. The Mountaineers previously shot a season-low 2324 against Nebraska at the WVU Rifle Range on Jan. 19.
“It was a tough day for the team, and some of them really struggled,” Hammond explained. “The championships are a hard match to shoot – so much rides on one day. I’m proud of everyone for fighting, and I think they all shot their best under these conditions.”
Sophomore Maren Prediger and freshman Garrett Spurgeon each shot 576 in the second relay, good enough for 16th place. Prediger’s mark was a season high; the Petersaurach, Germany, native previously shot 570 at the GARC Championships.
Sophomore Meelis Kiisk opened the team’s day with a 575 score in the first relay, while classmate Taylor Ciotola shot 569 in the day’s final relay.
The championships conclude today with air rifle. First shot from OSU’s French Field House is scheduled for 8 a.m., with individual finals set for 1:45 p.m. Links for a video feed and live scores can be found at www.wvusports.com.
WVU freshman runner Kelly Williams ran a 4:38.18 mile Friday night to move into the final at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
Williams finished fifth in her heat and ninth overall to claim a spot in the mile final at 7 p.m. today. Her time was the second-fastest of her career and also the fifth-best time in WVU program history.
“What a clutch performance from Kelly. Being the only freshman in the mile and finding a way to survive the heats is a very special accomplishment,” coach Sean Cleary said. “We are very happy with the way today unfolded. Lining up with the 10 best milers in the country gives Kelly the chance to truly find out how good she is.”
ESPN3 will stream the meet live from 7-9:30 p.m.. A tape delay of the championships will air Sunday, March 17 from 7-9 p.m. on ESPNU.