The No. 1-ranked West Virginia University rifle team opens the 2023-24 season at home against Akron, on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 10 a.m. inside the WVU Rifle Range.
“We are always excited for a new season but this year there is an extra edge,” Hayhurst Family Head Coach Jon Hammond said. “We have a good combination of core returners but also some strong additions that should provide us with a deep and motivated squad.
“As always, we have a challenging schedule but one that will test us and prepare us for the matches at the end of the season. We want to set the highest standard throughout the year and work as hard as possible to keep pushing the limits. I know the team members are motivated to make this a special year and how well they commit to that will be a strong factor in determining our success.”
A Coliseum Championship
For the second time in program history, the nation-best 19-time NCAA National Champion WVU rifle team will host the NCAA Championships. The two-day competition will take place March 8-9, at the Bill McKenzie Rifle Range inside the WVU Coliseum.
“Hosting the NCAA Championships at the end of the season in the Coliseum gives some added intensity to our season,” Hammond said. “The Coliseum will provide a wonderful venue for the Championships and it will an amazing experience for our team to compete in there.”
The Mountaineers have won six NCAA titles under 17-year coach Jon Hammond, including five straight from 2013-17. WVU finished second in 2018 with a 4708 total while finishing inside the top six the past three seasons.
Seven letter winners return for the Mountaineers this season: fifth years Malori Brown and Mary Tucker, seniors Tal Engler, Becca Lamb, Molly McGhin and Matt Sanchez, and junior Natalie Perrin all return to the lineup.
This group owns five straight NCAA National Championship appearances, three Great America Rifle Conference (GARC) regular-season titles and three GARC Championships titles. The group brought home 12 All-America honors last season.
Tucker’s Continued Success
Mary Tucker highlights the returners, coming off a season that brought home a host of national and conference honors. Tucker took home the nation’s top honors, being named the CRCA Shooter of the Year as well as the CRCA Senior of the Year.
Tucker also laid claim to the conference’s top honors, taking home the GARC Shooter and Senior of the Year awards.
During last season, Tucker shot her way to two NCAA records in smallbore (597) and aggregate (1196). She also became just the seventh Mountaineer to score a perfect 600 in air rifle, accomplishing the feat on Feb. 18 at the NCAA Qualifier.
Barnick Joins Mountaineers
Menasha, Wisconsin, native Gavin Barnick, an incoming junior with collegiate and international experience, joins the Mountaineers for the 2023-24 season.
Barnick comes to WVU after spending his first two collegiate seasons with Alaska-Fairbanks. There he helped guide the Nanooks to the 2022-23 NCAA National Championship and a third-place finish at the same event a year earlier.
Last season, the then-sophomore posted an aggregate score of 1187 twice, marking his season high. He added season highs of 592 in smallbore while hitting a high of 597 in air rifle twice.
Internationally, Barnick managed gold at the 2022 ISSF World Championships in the Junior Men’s 50m Rifle 3 Position Team. He added a silver at the 2022 Winter Air Gun Championships in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle while earning bronze at the 2022 USA Shooting Rifle National Championships in the Junior Men’s 50m Smallbore.
He took home bronze at the 2021 ISSF JR World Championships in the Men’s 50m Smallbore Team, Mixed Team 50m Prone and the Men’s 50m Smallbore. Barnick added a silver medal at the 2021 JR Pan American Games. Before his collegiate career, he claimed a silver medal at the 2019 USA Shooting Rifle National Championships in the Junior Men’s Air Rifle class.
Two More Newcomers Set to Make Impact
Freshman Maximus Duncan and Griffin Lake are set for their collegiate debuts this season for the Mountaineers.
After graduating high school from the Vanguard School in 2021, Duncan began his academic career last year at the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs. During high school, Duncan began shooting air rifle and smallbore, picking up the disciplines in 2019 and 2022, respectively.
Duncan won both the air rifle and smallbore titles at the 2022 Junior Men’s Colorado State Championships. He also finished in eighth place in Junior Men’s Air Rifle at the 2022 USA Shooting Rifle Nationals. Most recently, Duncan competed at USA Shooting’s 2022 Winter Air Gun Championships, where he took fourth place in the Junior Men’s Air Rifle Final.
Lake, along with shooting for Emmaus High, has shot for the Ontlaunee Junior Rifle Team since 2016 and is a member of the USA Shooting Futures Team. He set the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) 3-position smallbore record in the open and junior categories, with a 593. He also won the NRA’s National 3-position Metric Match in 2022.
Lake competed at the 2022 Civilian Marksmanship Program’s (CMP) National Match and won the 3-position smallbore championship. Additionally, he was crowned the 3-position air rifle champion at the 2022 CMP Regional Championships.
Selected as a Top U-18 at the 2022 Junior Olympics, Lake has also competed at the 2022 International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) Junior World Championships in Cairo, Egypt. While in Cairo, Lake won the bronze medal in the junior men’s 50-meter rifle, 3-position event. Lake also won the 3-position smallbore U-18 championship at the 2022 Junior Olympic National Championships.
Season No. 18 for Hammond
Coach Jon Hammond returns for his 18th season with the Mountaineers in 2023-24. Hammond, a former Mountaineer student-athlete and a two-time Olympian, has returned the WVU rifle program to national glory. Under his guidance, the Mountaineers have won six national championships in 17 seasons, 10 individual NCAA titles and 13 GARC Championships. Additionally, the program has produced six undefeated seasons, 203 All-Americans and 20 CSC Academic All-Americans.
The Mountaineers’ 2023-24 schedule features six of the team’s seven opponents from the 2023 NCAA National Championships, including matches against NCAA Runner-Up TCU, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Nebraska, Air Force and Murray State.
WVU is set to host four home regular season matches as well as the NCAA Qualifier and NCAA National Championship this season. All home matches will be held at the WVU Rifle Range or the Bill McKenzie Rifle Range inside the WVU Shell Building or the WVU Coliseum.
WVU opens its season and the defense of its 14th GARC Tournament title against Akron on Oct. 7.
The Mountaineers’ fall schedule is highlighted by one, four-way match at the WVU Shell Building on Nov. 11-12 for the annual WVU Fall Classic. West Virginia will face Air Force, Murray State and Nebraska, in a match designed to replicate the NCAA National Championship format.