© 2023 WMKY
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Morehead State Rifle Program Gaining Notoriety

MSU Athletics

Chances are, when many a football or basketball player sits down in a Morehead State classroom, people will notice. Size says a lot.

On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps the most anonymous-looking folks on campus are members of the MSU rifle team. They blend in with the crowd. Make no mistake, though, these Eagles are athletes.

"I know, going around, people don't consider rifle shooting a sport actually," said Siarra "CC" Crum, a freshman from Portage, Pa. "If you look at the very competition, we fight against each other to get that top score. I feel like I'm an athlete."

An athlete in an indoor, co-ed, Olympic sport.

MSU's campus home, the Button Rifle Range, features state-of-the-art electronic targets.

In a match, shooters compete in air rifle and smallbore.

Air rifle, contested with a .177 caliber pellet, uses compressed air and is fired at a distance of 10 meters - about 33 feet. The bull's-eye, as seen by the naked eye from 10 meters, appears to be about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Contestants take 60 shots, all from a standing position.

Smallbore, which uses a .22 caliber cartridge, is shot at a distance of 50 feet. Contestants take 60 shots in all - 20 from a kneeling position, 20 prone and 20 standing.

Shooters wear custom-made jackets and pants made of leather and canvas. The uniforms are made to give support and stability in shooting positions. Traction material on the elbows and shoulders help prevent a rifle from slipping.

The MSU roster has five males and three females.

Alan Joseph, in his second season as coach of the Eagles, says he is "very happy" with where his team is at for this point of the season.

"Because we're just beginning to hit our stride," he said. "This team has seven underclassmen out of eight. I have one senior, four sophomores and three freshmen. And we're chasing people down with underclassmen, so I'm very, very happy."

Ethan Cole, a fifth-year senior who is serving as Joseph's assistant, says the Eagles are getting better with experience.

"And with them being so young, they're having struggles right now," Cole said. "But as the year's progressed, and under Alan's tutelage, the team will reach new heights that it's never seen before."

There is plenty of time on the range for shooters to think about the task at hand. With a time limit of one hour and 15 minutes to shoot 60 shots in air rifle, and 1:45 for smallbore, more than a minute can pass between shots.

"Rifle is, in my opinion, 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical," said Seth Baker, a sophomore from Saxton, Pa. "Because you're always fighting with yourself mentally - pull the trigger, not to pull the trigger, get yourself aligned with the target, and everything else like that. I do consider it like a sport, obviously, but more of a mental sport."

Team captain Joe Fischer, a sophomore from Stoystown, Pa., agrees that the sport is mostly mental.

"It's crazy how your mind can determine your fate," Fischer said. "You compete with yourself every single time. I mean, you obviously have a team that you compete against, but you have yourself to compete with because you're always wondering if you shot a shot and you didn't 'call it' that, what's the deal? And you get yourself worked up and you start going downhill. So it's definitely 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical."

After a tri-match next Saturday at Kentucky, along with Navy, MSU will get a much-needed break from competition until the second half of the season opens Jan. 22-24 with the Eagle Open. That's when Joseph wants his team ready to ramp up the big scores.

"Our most important matches are in February," he said. "Our conference championship is the first weekend in February, and the qualifying match for the NCAA Championship is the third weekend in February. And those two matches alone are the most important we'll shoot. ... So the direction that any coach wants their team in is to be trending upward through January and February, so that we are trending into that qualifying match."

The key to finding that upward trend is repetition.

"Each match, they gain a little experience, a little more confidence," Joseph said. "And they were recruited because of their ability and my belief in them, and now they work together as a team. Each match, they work on some small things to improve, no matter what. I mean, we improve in some way week after week. And even if it's internal dynamics, it continues to improve."

"That's very critical in a sport like ours. ... This team has a phenomenal chemistry, and that's reflected in their scores."

Related Content