MURRAY, Ky. – The University of Tennessee at Martin rifle team saved its best team performance for last, as the Skyhawks smashed three program records at this weekend’s NCAA Qualifier at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range on the campus of Murray State University.
UT Martin’s 4,626 aggregate score was six points better than the previous school record, while its 2,347 air rifle points are 10 points better than the former UT Martin benchmark. Individually, Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year Dacotah Faught shot a remarkable 597 in air rifle, which is five points better than the previous school record.
“This was truly an exceptional team performance, with 14 of our 16 athletes posting scores above their season average and seven of them contributing to a new team aggregate record,” Skyhawk head coach Bob Beard said. “I am very proud of the entire team.”
Faught’s remarkable performance will certainly catch the eye of the NCAA selection committee, who will choose four at-large individuals in both air rifle and smallbore to compete in the NCAA Championships, ironically held at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range on March 14-15. The NCAA entrants will be announced this Thursday, Feb. 27 at 4 p.m. CST. Faught will be making the bid to become the first UT Martin shooter to advance to the NCAA championships since Jaymi Collar and Heather Tillson shot a 589 to qualify for the 2006 NCAA championships, held in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“As for Dacotah’s individual school air rifle record, I have never, in 32 years of coaching, seen a better performance,” Beard said. “The three times she missed the 10-dot were evenly distributed across the 60-shot course of fire and each registered 9.9 on the computerized Olympic target, meaning she missed the 10-dot by a little more than the width of a human hair.”
Faught’s 597 air rifle score ranked first out of any shooter from a stacked field that included West Virginia, Jacksonville State and Murray State this weekend. Jessica Cobb fired a 588 while Dana Maurizio (582) and Nikki Kroll (580) also factored into the team score.
Steve Hahn (581), Logan Hunt (577), Jamie Arnett (573), Joe Barefoot (568), Breanna Flint (567), Jordan Goodwin (567), Jacob Stolley (555) and Katrina Klaes (546) also shot for UT Martin.
The Skyhawks produced a 2,279 total in smallbore. Faught’s 575 paced the team, followed by Barefoot’s 572, Maurizio’s 567 and Flint’s 565.
Sean O’Brien (564), Cobb (562), Hunt (558), Kelly James (554), Hahn (554), Jordan Jensen (553), Kroll (550) and Alex Haid (546) rounded out the Skyhawk shooters.
Aside from the fact that three of the program’s most hallowed records fell, the team’s effort this weekend meant even more to Beard, who has announced his intent to retire after this season.
“We have had such a great year both athletically and academically,” said Beard, who won his fourth OVC Coach of the Year award two weeks ago. “The team sure has sent me out in style. This had the potential to be my last match but now I hopefully get to coach another three weeks and I couldn’t be happier.”