Rifle team dialing in on long-range targets for 2021-22 season
Liberty University Head Coach Marlene Gray has witnessed rapid improvement within the Flames’ and Lady Flames’ third-year rifle team, one of three disciplines in the fifth-year shooting sports program along with the shotgun and Action Shooting teams.
“Each year, we’ve seen a growth in our program,” she said. “Since we’ve joined the Western Intercollegiate Rifle Conference, the competition experience and opportunities for us have expanded. We’re being invited to upcoming invitationals, which gives our competitors more opportunities to compete and practice and be ready to go to nationals.”
This past April, Liberty placed third as a team in smallbore and fourth in the air rifle event at the American Smallbore Shooting Association (ASSA) Intercollegiate Rifle Club National Championships in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“We’re looking forward to starting out at a higher level of competition this year,” Gray said. “We’re very excited. We have five returning students that shot excellent at nationals last year and they have been improving. To get to the next level takes a little bit more work and they’re motivated and they’re excited about returning.”
She noted that three incoming freshmen women with excellent experience will make the team even stronger this fall.
“We got to meet all of the girls and and they’re wonderful and I think they’re going to fit really well with our team,” Gray said. “We still have the opportunity to have tryouts and I can take on one more student. Last year, we had one student who was a walk-on and she excelled tremendously.”
She said COVID-19 set the team back by canceling the national championships in Spring 2020, but it has only served to make it a more tight-knit unit.
“COVID’s been hard on everybody; it’s been hard for the whole country,” Gray said. “But the students have grown closer, they grew stronger together, and they stayed focused, so we’re looking forward this year to putting all those disciplines together and just seeing what kind of scores we can get on the range. The team is excited and enthusiastic and we’re looking forward to doing more things together. You can just sense an energy in talking with the students.”