CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Citadel co-ed rifle team opened up the 2017-18 season this weekend by hosting a two-day NCAA Test Match inside McAlister Field House on Saturday, Sept. 23, and Sunday, Sept. 24, with six nationally-ranked teams in attendance. While faced with the tough task of competing against a stacked field, the Bulldogs set a program record for best aggregate team score on Sunday.
"I am very proud of the way our cadet-athletes competed this weekend," said head rifle coach William Smith. "I hoped they would pick back up and do better than we finished last year, and they did just that. What's even better is they know they left points out on the table, so hopefully they will continue to work hard to improve this year. They competed well against some very good competition this weekend."
Included in the field were top-ranked and five-time defending national champion West Virginia, including 2016 Olympic Gold Medal-winner Ginny Thrasher, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 Nebraska, ninth-ranked North Carolina State, 12th-ranked Ole Miss and No. 20 North Georgia.
On Saturday the Bulldogs finished with an aggregate score of 4510, including a 2228 in smallbore and a 2282 in air rifle. They then turned around on Sunday and bested all three scores with a program-record 4553 aggregate made up of a 2254 in smallbore and 2300 in air rifle.
West Virginia took top honors on the first day, posting a weekend-best score of 4703 while Ohio State finished second (4646), N.C. State third (4630), North Georgia fourth (4608) and the Bulldogs rounding out Saturday's field in fifth. On the second day, Ole Miss finished with an aggregate score of 4661 to lead the way ahead of N.C. State (4650), Nebraska (4631) and The Citadel.
Not surprisingly, Thrasher took top honors on Saturday with a score of 587 in smallbore and 595 in air rifle for an aggregate of 1182, the best score of the weekend. The Mountaineers took the top four individual spots on Saturday and claimed six of the top-10 scores.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs were led by freshman Max Brabston's 1142 as he finished 20th in smallbore with a 572 and 34th in air rifle with a 570. Morgan Long finished the day second for the team with an 1124 (551 smallbore, 573 air rifle) while Allison Auten was third on the team with an 1119 (546 small bore, 573 air rifle). Long's 573 in air rifle placed him 31st individually while Auten was one spot behind in 32nd. Colton Poole and Leah Fenwrick-Wallace rounded out the scoring five for the Bulldogs on Saturday with an 1116 (550 smallbore, 566 air rifle) and a 1063 (505 smallbore, 558 air rifle).
On Sunday, Ole Miss's Harley Gardner took top honors with an aggregate score of 1172, including a 581 in smallbore and 591 in air rifle. The Rebels and N.C. State each had four individuals in the top-10 on Sunday with the Wolf Pack's Lauren Phillips finishing second, just two points behind Gardner with an 1170 (578 smallbore, 592 air rifle).
Brabston followed up his solid debut on Sunday by once again leading the Bulldogs, this time with an 1155 (573 smallbore, 582 air rifle). Brabston's 573 in smallbore was the 10th-best score in the discipline for the day while his 582 in air rifle was good enough for 14th. Alexander McAlear ended day-two with the team's second-best score, an 1141 (564 smallbore, 577 air rifle) while Poole improved from day-one to day-two by posting an 1133 (561 smallbore, 572 air rifle) to finish third on the squad. Auten and Long rounded out the scoring five for The Citadel on Sunday with an 1125 (556 smallbore, 569) for Auten and an 1101 (535 smallbore, 566 air rifle) for Long.
The Citadel will next travel to VMI on Saturday, Sept. 30, for the first Southern Conference (SoCon) match of the season.