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    March 16, 2021 Talladega, Ala. RSS |

    As the 2020 Scholastic Action Shooting Program (SASP) rifle national collegiate champions, Liberty University’s Action Shooting team returned to Talladega, Ala., this past weekend and not only defended its SASP Tammy L. Mowry Rifle Cup title, but added an SASP pistol national collegiate championship trophy to its collection.

    “We had extraordinary efforts by all 11 competitors that traveled with the team,” said Flames Head Coach Bill Crawford, who also serves as general manager of the Liberty Mountain Gun Club. “The rifle squads utterly dominated the rifle divisions, with both Liberty squads finishing first and second in all three rifle categories. The real excitement for the weekend was contesting for our first-ever Daniel C. Hodne Pistol Cup.”

    Crawford said Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets Marksmanship Unit always brings exceptionally gifted pistol shooters and had taken home the trophy for the last five years. Liberty brought a centerfire pistol squad to the competition for the first time, comprised of juniors Sam Verdoorn, Andersen Bennett, and Jacob Beebe, and freshman Caleb Clinton, and they captured the top spot from the two A&M squads.

    The Flames and Lady Flames took home both the SASP Pistol (left) and Rifle Collegiate Championship trophies.

    “As the coach, I continue to be amazed with the tenacity and resilience of the shooters,” said Crawford, who noted that the Flames rallied from a sub-par third stage to win by four seconds after a strong showing in the fourth and final stage. “The team works for each other at a level I have not seen in my shooting career. And when a run goes poorly, the team rallies behind the shooter and lifts them back up.”

    Liberty also shot for the first time in the ancillary discipline of Rimfire Pistol (Optic), mainly for fun and to gain some competitive experience in that category, Crawford said. However, the Flames squad made up of Verdoorn, Bennett, Gabe Goodman, and fellow junior Caden Wilburn surprised themselves and the rest of the field by also earning top honors in that category. The Rimfire Pistol (Iron) team also had a strong showing, finishing third behind two remarkably strong Virginia Tech squads.

    Crawford said the depth of competition from teams around the country was less than normal due to COVID, but he was still extremely proud of his shooters for overcoming the dominant Texas A&M squad, as well as former rifle champions Concordia University of Wisconsin and the second-year Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets squad, which showed this weekend that it will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

    Liberty was represented on the podium for top-three finishes in all six contested categories, with every  shooter earning a team or individual medal at the competition.

    In the Rimfire Rifle (Optic) division, the Flames’ and Lady Flames’ “Blue” squad of Verdoorn, Bennett, Cami Barshinger, and senior Zach Larsen placed first followed by their runner-up “Red” squad of junior Christian Morgan, Beebe, Wilburn, and freshman Katy Allen. (Verdoorn finished first and Larsen third in the men’s individual standings with Barshinger, Allen, and graduate Connelly Weems swept the top three spots in the female standings.)

    Those same squads, other than Clinton taking the place of Wilburn in the “Red” lineup, finished first and second, respectively in the Rimfire Rifle (Iron) division, led by Verdoorn, the men’s overall winner, and the women’s trio of Allen (first), Barshinger (second), and Weems (third).

    Verdoorn (first individually among men), Morgan, Clinton, and Barshinger made up Liberty’s first-place Pistol Caliber Carbine “Blue” team, followed by the second-place “Red” squad of teammates Weems, Beebe, Larsen, and Allen. Wilburn also came in third individually among men while Allen, Barshinger, and Weems posted a 1-2-3 finish among women.

    In the Centerfire Pistol division, the Flames’ squad of Verdoorn (third individually among men), Beebe, Clinton, and Bennett captured first place, as did the team of Verdoorn, Wilburn, Goodman, and Bennett in the Rimfire Pistol (Optic) competition. Liberty’s Rimfire Pistol (Iron) squad of Wilburn, Allen, Weems, and Goodman finished third.

    Crawford credited assistant coaches Andrew Medford and Bryce Enold for the Flames’ and Lady Flames’ success in the pistol competitions.

    “They are both exceptionally gifted shooters themselves and far stronger pistol coaches than me, and it was them that worked with the Centerfire squad to bring home that particular championship,” he said.

    Crawford was proud of the way his shooters represented Liberty and Christ at the competition, even loaning a junior shooter from another team a rifle when their firearm failed.

    “Perhaps my proudest moment, even over the victories, was when the Concordia University of Wisconsin team saw us praying before the first day of shooting, then on the second day asked if they could pray with us,” he said. “It is this level of sportsmanship from our squad that makes all the hard work worthwhile.”