WVU rifle wins GARC Championship, sets sights on 20th national title

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MORGANTOWN, W.VA (WDTV) - Recap of the WVU rifle team's victory in the Great America Rifle Conference Championship (includes comments from head coach Jon Hammond, air rifle champion Ginny Thrasher & overall champion Morgan Phillips)

(WVU release):
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (February 25, 2018) – The No. 1-ranked West Virginia University rifle team shot 2366 air rifle this afternoon at the 2018 Great America Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships at the Bill McKenzie Rifle Range, pushing its aggregate total to 4699 and giving the Mountaineers their ninth straight championship title.

WVU’s (13-0, 9-0) title is its conference-best 13th. The 2018 GARC regular-season champions as well, the Mountaineers have swept the GARC team titles nine times since 1998.

“I liked the way everyone fought through the match today,” Mountaineer coach Jon Hammond said. “I think a lot of them had a few struggles, but I think they each had a great attitude, stayed positive and worked through their matches. They didn’t have their best overall performance, but they did the best they could today. I’m sure they each got a lot out of this weekend for preparations for the NCAA Championships.”

Once again, the individual final came down to two Mountaineers, as junior Ginny Thrasher and sophomore Morgan Phillips were the last two athletes at the line shooting for the air rifle championship. For the second straight day, Thrasher edged Phillips, finishing with a 250.7-247.7 advantage.

Today’s air rifle title is Thrasher’s second straight. Combined with yesterday’s smallbore victory, Thrasher has claimed four GARC titles in three seasons.

Freshman Sarah Osborn joined her teammates in the final and finished fifth overall with a 182.4 mark.

“It’s great to have three representatives in the final,” Hammond noted. “It was great to see Sarah qualify for the final at her first conference championship. Morgan and Ginny – this is what they do. They have good battles with each other. They led the way throughout the final with some great shooting. Ginny had an exceptional final to edge Morgan again. It was a solid final.”

No. 4-ranked Kentucky finished second overall with a two-day total of 4686. The Wildcats edged the Mountaineers in today’s air rifle competition, winning the team title with a 2367 total.

“This was a good match for our team to work through today,” Hammond said. “It’s OK for us to struggle and battle it out a little bit. We need to make sure we aren’t complacent and do the preparation we need to do the next couple of weeks. This is a good reminder that there are other competitive teams. While we were able to win the championship, and that’s great, there’s a lot for us to work on these next few weeks.”

No. 10 Navy finished third with a 4663 mark, while No. 8 Nebraska and Ole Miss tied for fourth place with 4651 totals. NC State placed sixth with a 4646 mark, and Army West Point finished in seventh place with a 4639 score. Akron and Memphis finished in eighth and ninth place, respectively, with scores of 4637 and 4624.

Thrasher entered today’s air rifle final in first place with a 595 (100-98-98-100-99-100) mark, shot in the third relay. Osborn shot in the day’s first relay and entered the final in third place with a 593 total, while Phillips sat in fifth place with a 592 mark.

Senior Elizabeth Gratz finished 14th overall with a 590 mark, while redshirt-freshman Noah Barker and junior Will Anti shot 589 and finished in 16th place. Redshirt-freshman David Koenders placed 21st with a 588 total, and sophomore Jack Anderson added a 579 mark.

In total, six Mountaineers counted toward the team’s scores at the championships. Thrasher, Gratz, Phillips and Koenders counted in both disciplines, while Osborn counted toward WVU’s smallbore score, and Anti shot toward the team’s air rifle total.

Of note, WVU was again without the services of sophomore Milica Babic, as she is competing for Serbia at the 2018 European Championships.

Having already qualified for the 2018 NCAA National Championships as the field’s top seed, the Mountaineers will use the next two weeks to prepare for the defense of their five straight titles. The National Championships will be held March 9-10, at The Citadel’s McAlister Field House in Charleston, South Carolina.