OXFORD, Miss. —The Ole Miss rifle team is preparing to host the Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships for the ninth consecutive year at the Patricia C. Lamar National Guard Readiness Center this weekend (Feb. 22-24).
The GARC is comprised of several of the top rifle programs in the country. Teams include NCAA qualifiers Army, West Virginia, Nebraska and Kentucky as well as NC State and Memphis. Navy is competing as a guest this weekend, since they will officially join the conference beginning with the 2013-14 season.
The Rebels posted a solid score of 4632 at the NCAA Qualifier last Saturday at the University of Kentucky, equaling their second highest mark for the year. However, the team learned Wednesday that they had just missed out on an NCAA bid, as only the top eight teams are selected for the championships.
“We did what we set out to do at Kentucky,” head coach Valerie Boothe said. “We went into the match knowing where we stood and what he had to shoot to try and earn a bid. We were looking to do our best, and that’s what we did. Nine is the worst spot to be in, because you are like the best of the unsatisfied. But it shows that our program continues to be right there knocking on the door, and eventually we are going to get in.”
Despite the disappointment of not qualifying for the NCAA Championships, Boothe says the team is looking forward to the weekend and hosting the conference championships again.
“It’s kind of like a homecoming week. We see these teams all year long, and all the team members know each other really well,” Boothe said. “It’s almost like one big family. It’s good friendly competition. For a lot of the teams headed to NCAAs, this will serve as a practice round for them, because it’s run exactly the same. The pressure is the same. It will be great competition for the ones that didn’t make it, and for the ones that did, they’re shooting against half of the NCAA field.”
The season might not be over after this weekend for everyone on the team, as the individual selections will be announced Thursday. Junior Abbey Stanec, who finished runner-up at the NCAAs last year in air rifle, will find out if she gets to go back home to Ohio for a second time.
Stanec paced the team last weekend at the qualifier, with a season-best aggregate score of 1171, including a season-high 590 in air rifle and 581 in smallbore.
“I made it last year and then shot a personal best to finish second. I am hopeful that the 590 [I shot] this past weekend will help me get in again. I’ll be anticipating the show tomorrow.”
Stanec is looking forward to this weekend’s competition. “GARC is always a lot of fun. We get to hang out with our friends from all the other teams. We have the banquet Friday night where everybody gets to visit and take pictures. It’s always a fun way to end the season.”
This weekend will mark the final hurrah for senior Kim Coffey. “Kim has been a really good all-around team member for us,” Boothe said. “She pushes everyone on the team to get better. She gets her work done in the classroom and has been our top GPA leader all four years. You couldn’t ask for a better team member.”
Competition starts Friday with individual smallbore at Noon. Saturday will feature team smallbore beginning at 7 a.m., with the finals at 5:30 p.m. The championships conclude Sunday with air rifle at 8 a.m. followed by the air finals at 12:45 p.m.
Admission for the weekend is free. The Patricia C. Lamar National Guard Readiness Center is located off Hwy. 7, on Sisk Avenue.
Live scoring will be available on OleMissSports.com’s GARC Central page.
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