WVU rifle team wins 16th national title

MURRAY, Ky. – Back-to-back national champions.

That’s what the members of the West Virginia University rifle team can claim after their performance on Saturday at the NCAA Championship conducted at Murray State University.

WVU, which entered the competition ranked No. 1, left no doubt that it was the nation’s top squad, setting an NCAA record score of 4,705.

It was the 16th national rifle title for WVU, more than any other school. The rifle team is the only program in WVU sports history to win a national championship.

The win was the third in eight years under coach Jon Hammond. WVU’s score of 4,705 topped the previous record of 4,700 set by the University of Kentucky. The Mountaineers are the first team to win consecutive NCAA titles since Alaska-Fairbanks won three straight from 2006-08. West Virginia last claimed back-to-back titles with four straight victories from 1995-98.

Alaska-Fairbanks finished second with 4,677, Kentucky was third with 4,675 Memphis fourth 4,669.

WVU breezed to victory on the strength of its winning 2,367 air rifle scor. The NCAA air rifle title also is the second straight for the Mountaineers.

Five Mountaineers shot for the team score, with juniors Maren Prediger (596), Ziva Dvorsak (594) and Thomas Kyanko (586), and sophomore Garrett Spurgeon (591) counting toward the final tally. Junior Meelis Kiisk shot 582.

Prediger, Dvorsak and Spurgeon all advanced to the air rifle final, the second final in as many days for Dvorsak and Spurgeon. Prediger, a Petersaurach, Germany, native, entered the final with the championships’ best relay score and finished as the national runner-up with a 205.0 mark. Kentucky’s Connor Davis edged out Prediger with a 205.4 mark.

Dvorsak, a Ljubljana, Slovenia, native, finished third with a 185.1 mark after placing seventh in smallbore. Additionally, Spurgeon, a Canton, Mo., native, shot 143.5 in the final and placed fifth to go with second place finish smallbore.

WVU, the five-time reigning Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) champions, finished the 2013-14 campaign with a 10-0 overall record and a 7-0 conference mark.

The West Virginia University sports information department contributed to this story