Feb. 28, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
The five seniors on the Ole Miss rifle team entered the program together, before the 2010 season, and they will leave together, as they compete in their final collegiate match at the Great American Rifle Conference Championships at their home range this weekend.
Seniors MaryAnn Banks, Rena Goodwin, Melissa Quartarone, Abbey Stanec and Alivia Yeager have grown and matured, individually and collectively, from start to finish during their collegiate careers in the Red and Blue.
“We have grown up together, honestly,” Quartarone said. “It’s been a long four years with each other. Sometimes you’re sick of each other, and then other times you can’t imagine life without them. It’s been really interesting, especially this year. Everyone has developed so much since our freshman year. It’s like we’re practically not the same group.”
While they did not help the Rebels advance to the NCAA Tournament, one of their goals when they entered as freshman, they changed the atmosphere, culture and perception of Ole Miss rifle.
“They made a bigger push for the team aspect,” head coach Valerie Boothe said. “Before, we were always trying to bring along the team part of it, but it’s difficult for an individual sport. The team performance doesn’t have a bearing on what each individual does, but the individual performance does have a direct effect on the total team performance. They focused more on what the team does versus what certain individuals do.”
“We, in a very big way, restored Ole Miss rifle,” Goodwin said. “We came in and redid how everything works here. In a way, we were the new start to Ole Miss rifle. Our biggest goal and how we want to be remembered is being the movement that’s now going to be carried on to the next class.”
Quartarone, a second team All-American her sophomore season, and Stanec, the NCAA Individual Runner-up in air rifle her sophomore season have aspirations of continuing their shooting career at the national level.
For most of them, however, they know it’s going be to their last match, and a lot of their parents will be coming down for the match, which will only add to the emotions of the weekend.
“None of us want to retire early,” Quartarone said. “Conference-wise, we will be done. We can’t take it easy. We have to keep pushing, even if there is that temptation to think of each shot as the last and most important shot. We have to look at it as each one of our shots here has been equally important, and if we set these aside as our most important shots, then we’re doing ourselves a disservice with what we have put in work-wise for the last four years. They need to be just as important as the shots that came before.”
“Each one of them individually has unfinished business, whether that means postseason play, or finishing strong at GARC, or getting that one last good match in,” Boothe said. “They all have something that they need to finalize. They are looking at counting down these last practices and last matches to solidify their spot in Ole Miss rifle history.”
Their legacy, they agreed, is not only the change within the program, but also the impact they have made on the team’s three freshmen — Sarah Emery, Nicolle Thiry and Alison Weisz — who as sophomores next season will be the team’s upperclassmen.
“We have already built it,” said Yeager of their legacy. “When we came into the program, it was completely different than it is now. We have worked for four years to bring the program to a new level, and if the freshmen continue at that same level that we have built up to now, then great things will happen.”
“Our legacy right now is going to be those three freshmen that we have,” Quartarone said. “They’re what we’re be leaving behind. We’re be leaving a bunch of things here, but once we’re gone, we’re gone. There will be remnants of what we did, our attitudes and the scores that we shot, but we’re putting our legacy in the freshmen. If we’re not able to develop them and show them where we failed, and make them succeed where we failed, then we don’t have a legacy. Our legacy isn’t how many All Americans we put or what our scores were; it’s those freshmen, and it’s those people you develop and leave behind.”
The seniors will begin their final competition as Rebels Saturday morning at the Patricia C. Lamar National Guard Readiness Center with smallbore. The championships conclude Sunday with air rifle.
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller