No. 1 ranked TCU Rifle is looking to defend their 2019 national championship title this season after the 2020 NCAA championship was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The path to the championships has been different than in previous years due to COVID-19 complications.
A typical collegiate rifle season begins in late September with competitions occurring throughout the fall semester. This year, COVID-19 protocols pushed the start date back until Jan. 8, 2021.
Where a team can travel or how often they can practice has been limited for many teams around the country. TCU Rifle has been fortunate to compete in a nearly full yet condensed schedule this season while traveling to places such as Ohio, South Carolina and Alaska.
“We are lucky that we are such an individual sport because we can social distance while we practice,” said senior Elizabeth Marsh.
The condensed schedule puts the athletes in a tougher traveling schedule than they are used to following. The team typically leaves on Thursday or Friday for a competition, competes on Saturday, then flies back Sunday.
In previous years, the competition schedule was spread out from September to March, but this season the team has traveled across the country every weekend since Jan. 8.
“To travel as much as we do, it requires a lot of discipline and structure in your everyday life,” said sophomore Stephanie Grundsoee.
A record-breaking season
Through seven competitions, TCU Rifle has gone a perfect 7-0 and broken numerous program records along the way.
Against then-ranked No. 5 Alaska Fairbanks on Jan. 17, the team earned the third-highest aggregate score and 12th highest air rifle score in TCU history.
Grundsoee topped her career highs in both smallbore (594) and air rifle (599) in the competition against Alaska Fairbanks, helping lead the Frogs to a win over a highly-rated conference opponent.
The smallbore portion of the competition is where each athlete fires 20 shots of a .22-caliber smallbore rifle in each of three positions — standing, kneeling, and prone — from 50 feet away. Shooters are given 95 minutes to complete the 60 shots.
In the air rifle portion of the competition, all 60 shots are fired in the standing position 10 meters from the target. Shooters are allotted 75 minutes to fire their 60 shots.
— TCU Rifle (@TCURifle) January 29, 2021
In a competition against The Citadel on Jan. 23, the Frogs posted the highest smallbore score and aggregate score in school history. The team was led by Kristen Hemphill’s personal best: 591 mark in smallbore and 597 in air rifle.
There have been numerous individual records broken this season as well. Grundsoee became the fourth Horned Frog and 11th athlete in NCAA history to post a perfect score (600) in Air Rifle.
The sophomore’s 1,188 average aggregate score is good enough for second in the country, followed by Kristen Hemphill (1,181 average) in fifth and Elizabeth Marsh (1178.7) in seventh nationally.
Grundsoee said that seeing her name pop up in the record books has significantly increased her confidence and kept her motivated throughout each competition.
“To have a shooter of her [Grundsoee’s] ability, her drive, her determination; it’s everything,” said head coach Karen Monez. “She sets the example for what it takes to be a top competitor and a top shooter.”
Frogs set their eyes on national title
Already on a record-setting pace, the team is looking poised to compete for what would be their fourth national championship title since 2010.
Coach Monez said that the team’s confidence is riding high at this point in the season.
“Our five counters that move forward to the NCAA Championships are prepared and ready to compete,” said Monez. “If the national championship was this weekend, they’d be ready.”
The NCAA Championship does not take place until March 12-13, but the team will face one of their toughest tests yet as they compete in the Patriot Rifle Conference (PRC) Championships this weekend.
The PRC was created for schools that sponsor rifle teams, but do not have rifle as a sponsored sport in their primary conferences. TCU will compete against Air Force, Alaska-Fairbanks, Ohio State and UTEP this weekend, seeking to win its fifth PRC title since its formation in 2013.
The Horned Frogs are in a great position heading into the weekend sporting a No. 1 national ranking and undefeated record.
A national title-defending season may come with some pressure to most, but that doesn’t phase the Frogs.
“Whether it’s the conference championships, the national championships, or just one of our regular season matches, we go into it with the mindset that we are going to give 100% and let the scoreboard do the talking,” said Monez.
After the PRC Championships in Columbus, Ohio, the Horned Frogs will travel to Lexington, Virginia to take on the Virginia Military Institute before finishing their regular season back in Fort Worth against Air Force on Feb. 18 and Feb. 20.
The team will finish their 2020-2021 campaign off by traveling back to Columbus, Ohio to compete in the NCAA Championships on March 12-13.