North Georgia wins SoCon Rifle Championship
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 03/05/2017
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North Georgia claimed the SoCon Rifle Championship crown
Courtesy: Southern Conference

CHARLESTON, S.C. – North Georgia claimed the 2017 Southern Conference Rifle Championship, turning in an aggregate score of 4564 at The Citadel’s Inouye Marksmanship Center with the completion of Sunday’s air rifle competition. UNG junior Ruthanne Conner was named the Air Rifle Athlete of the Year and won the league’s Pinnacle Award, while The Citadel’s William Smith was named the SoCon Coach of the Year and UAB’s Lilly Vonderau was voted the Freshman of the Year.

Georgia Southern edged the Nighthawks for the air rifle team title, firing a 2296 Sunday to best UNG in the discipline by just two points. VMI’s Andrew Hickey, who led all shooters after the three relays, went on to win the title in the air rifle individual final.

UNG claimed the team aggregate title in the first SoCon Rifle Championship since 1985 by a 51-point margin, as runner-up VMI had a score of 4513. GSU finished third at 4497, followed by The Citadel (4474), VMI’s women’s team (4404), UAB (4362), The Citadel women (4353) and Wofford (4350). The Nighthawks won Saturday’s team smallbore title with 2270 points.

North Georgia put all four of its scorers in the top 13 of the air rifle competition, but only Andrew Abernathy advanced to the individual final. UAB, Georgia Southern and VMI’s co-ed team each put two shooters in the individual final. Hickey bettered his season high by one point with a 582 in the relays, followed by teammate Hunter Jacob, who fired 579. GSU’s Courtney Weekley and Tori Lewis were next at 577, while Samantha Alexander of the VMI women’s team shot 576 and UAB’s Selina Curren and UNG’s Abernathy tied for sixth at 575. Vonderau, The Citadel’s Allison Auten and UNG’s Lucas Gilliland tied for the eighth and final spot in the individual final with a score of 574, but Vonderau advanced on the tiebreaker.

The final operated under a different format from the 60-shot relays. Competitors fired two five-shot series, followed by 14 single shots. Elimination of the bottom shooter began after the eighth shot and continued every two shots thereafter until just the champion remained.

VMI’s Hickey posted a score of 244.8 in the final to down UNG’s Abernathy (238.8). VMI’s Jacob was third at 220.2, followed by GSU’s Lewis (198.7), UAB’s Curren (178.4) and Vonderau (157.6), GSU’s Weekley (137.5) and VMI’s Alexander (112.2).

In the team air rifle race, Georgia Southern shot nearly nine points higher than its season average to stun the Nighthawks, who led the league with an average of 2301.00 entering the championship. The Eagles’ 2296 was their third-highest score of the season.

North Georgia’s Conner added to her growing list of accolades Sunday, as she made was named the Air Rifle Athlete of the Year to complement the Smallbore Athlete of the Year award she clinched Saturday. The award is determined by averaging league shooters’ top three regular-season finishes from different locations with their championship scores.

In addition, the Colville, Washington, native earned the Pinnacle Award, given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average on the championship-winning team.

The top five finishers in the air rifle competition earned first-team all-conference honors in the discipline, while the second five earned second-team honors.

UNG’s Abernathy and VMI’s Hickey were the only two student-athletes in the league to earn first-team All-SoCon honors in both disciplines.

2017 Southern Conference Rifle Championship
Aggregate team scores        SB       AR       Agg.
1. North Georgia                    2270    2294     4564
2. VMI                                  2234    2279     4513
3. Georgia Southern               2201    2296     4497
4. The Citadel                        2191    2283     4474
5. VMI-W                              2138    2266     4404
6. UAB                                 2110     2252     4362
7. The Citadel-W                   2139     2214     4353
8. Wofford                             2171    2186     4350

Air rifle individual final
1. Andrew Hickey, VMI              244.8
2. Andrew Abernathy, UNG        238.8
3. Hunter Jacob, VMI                220.2
4. Tori Lewis, GSU                   198.7
5. Selina Curren, UAB               178.4
6. Lilly Vonderau, UAB              157.6
7. Courtney Weekley, GSU        137.5
8. Samantha Alexander, VMI-W  112.2

Air Rifle Athlete of the Year
Ruthanne Conner, Jr., North Georgia

Freshman of the Year
Lilly Vonderau, UAB

Coach of the Year
William Smith, The Citadel

Pinnacle Award (student-athlete with the highest GPA on the championship-winning team)
Ruthanne Conner, Jr., North Georgia

All-Southern Conference Air Rifle
First team
Selina Curren, UAB
Tori Lewis, Georgia Southern
Andrew Abernathy, North Georgia
Andrew Hickey, VMI
Hunter Jacob, VMI

Second team
Lilly Vonderau, UAB
Allison Auten, The Citadel
Courtney Weekley, Georgia Southern
Lucas Gilliland, North Georgia
Samantha Alexander, VMI-W

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