Brief Thoughts on the 2017 NCAA Championships
What a weekend!
The NCAA Rifle Championships concluded on Saturday with an exciting air rifle final. The top eight competitors in the co-ed air rifle competition were all ladies, which is the first time I can ever recall that happening (granted, I am not a NCAA rifle historian). On Friday, five out of eight finalists were women, and those five ladies rounded out the top five after all shots were fired. That is such an exciting thing for me - the shooting sports taught me plenty of lessons in confidence and equality regardless of gender, size, or physical gifts. I am thrilled that women are performing so well at this level of competition.
Ohio State hosted the matches in their field house, allowing for a bigger audience than would fit in their range. West Virginia University's Rifle Team dominated the competition, winning both team titles and the #1 and #2 spots in both the smallbore and air rifle championships. In smallbore Ginny Thrasher was second to her freshman teammate Morgan Phillips, and in air rifle Morgan Phillips was second to her teammate and fellow freshman Milica Babic (en engineering major!).
Since the NCAA smallbore and air rifle titles went to a female shooter again this year (Ginny Thrasher won both titles last year in an unprecedented freshman sweep), I decided to update my NCAA rifle "gender equality" data visualization. This bar graph shows NCAA champions by gender and rifle type. While I tend to get excited about the fact that women have nearly as many titles as men, I think the main point is that there is little difference between the genders in this sport. While men and women compete separately on an international level, in the US for the most part matches are open to anyone and awards are given to the best shooter, period.
Though the end of the championships means the end of the NCAA season, I can't say I've ever been more excited about the results. I can't wait to see how the sport of rifle continues to evolve as the next generation of shooters continues to push for perfection.