By Gabriel Austin Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations
Ole Miss has received extensive national recognition recently for its beautiful campus among other things, including football, but one little known, highly talented freshman in another sport has written a new page in the history books at the University of Mississippi. Alison Weisz has been busy solidifying her name in the annuals of Ole Miss rifle.
“I would probably say there are some freshmen out there just as talented, but I think the difference is her drive and motivation,” head coach Valerie Boothe said.
The Belgrade, Mt. native is the first freshman in the history of the rifle team to individually qualify for the NCAA Championships as well as receive All-Conference honors from the Great American Rifle Conference (GARC).
“It’s really exciting,” Weisz said. “It’s all so surreal. I haven’t quite grasped the fact that I’m in the history books. I can say that it was my goal to make the NCAA Championships, but I never imagined I’d be the first freshman at Ole Miss to do so.”
According to Weisz, her opportunities to shoot in high school were fairly limited because of the lack of structure in her small town.
“We used to shoot in the basement of a sporting goods store then it closed, so we were out of a place. Another place opened. Smallbore was a big challenge, it was only through 4H. We only got to practice maybe once a week, that was a huge change. I didn’t really have a team, unless they threw some kids together for a team,” Weisz said.
Weisz’ talents have not been suppressed by this; her dedication has always been prevalent. In high school she placed three consecutive years in the junior nationals. In her first collegiate season she led the Rebels in air rifle six times, posting a career high 594 against Memphis, one point from the school record.
Even with her success, Weisz flew under the radar of some of the most successful programs in the country during recruiting. The Great American Rifle Conference is home to the current No. 1 team in the country and has had a team win or place second at the NCAA Championships seven of the last eight years.
“I have to give credit to my assistant coach, Natasha Dinsmore ,” Boothe said, “She met Ali a few times and thought she’d be a good contributor to the team. We got lucky she said yes.”
Weisz is happy she chose to come south and says she has enjoyed her time here so far.
“I owe a lot to both coaches and all of the seniors for what my freshman season has brought me. They have been very helpful and supportive along the way, on and off the range. I’ve learned a lot from all of them and hope to do the same for next year’s freshmen class.”
Weisz said she has had to sacrifice a lot of things many other college freshmen are able to take part in, but that rifle is a sort of solace for her. She wouldn’t trade the experiences that she’s gained.
“It’s taken a huge commitment and here I’ve found an even bigger drive and discipline for it,” Weisz said. “I’ve gained more than I’ve lost. My experience is completely different from every other college student, I would much rather be spending every day at the range than doing something else.”
Even the bulky immobilizing suits that members of the rifle team wear during competition have grown on Weisz. The suits help to stabilize the shooter, but give them a distinct penguin-like waddle.
“It’s kind of like a turtle shell in there,” Weisz said. “Kind of like home, I get a sense of comfort in them.”
Weisz looks to have a good showing her first time competing in the NCAA Championships which started Friday at Murray State University.
“I really want to prove myself,” Weisz said. “I know I already proved myself by qualifying as a freshman, but I want to show off what I’ve learned throughout the season.”
Beyond the championships, Coach Boothe has high expectations, for the already auspicious freshman shooter.
“Shooting wise she’s already very mature. I look for her to continue her success to push her air rifle scores higher than they are today and bring her smallbore score up. I want to see her really emerge as a team leader in a lot of aspects,” Boothe said.
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