For some people, shooting is only a recreational hobby, but for some Ole Miss women it’s a competitive sport and a passion.
The Ole Miss rifle team gives interested and talented women shooters the opportunity to show off their marksmanship in competition. The team competes in the Great American Rifle Conference and some team members choose to compete individually.
The team practices in the Patricia C. Lamar National Guard Center, which is part of the Oxford Conference Center.
HottyToddy.com interviewed rifle team member Alivia Yeager, a senior from Lexington Ken., who grew up around a shooting range.
“I started shooting about eight years ago,” Yeager said. “I started when I entered high school because my dad owned a shooting range.”
Yeager remembers rising early in high school and training in the morning before going to school all day. After school was more shooting.
Yeager said once she took her first shot, it was love at first rifle sight. She has been at it passionately ever since.
When the aspiring markswoman’s senior year of high school came around, she began looking at colleges with a rifle team and found Ole Miss to be the perfect fit. She came into the program with four other women who have stuck together as friends and teammates through the past four years.
For Yeager and the rest of the women on the all-female Ole Miss rifle team, a routine shooting match usually lasts the whole day.
In the rifle competition with Navy this past Saturday, for example, the match began at 8 a.m. with six shooters from each team attacking the shooting range with two different guns in two flights. One flight from each squad shot in the morning, with the other flight firing in the afternoon. Competition usually ends around 5 p.m.
“The first gun we shoot is an air rifle and the second a small-bore rifle,” Yeager explained. “During the air rifile phase, we shoot 60 rounds standing with an hour and 15 minutes allotted to do that. For small bore, we shoot three positions — lying down, kneeling and standing. That’s a total of 20 shots each and 60 shots total in a hour and 45 minutes.”
Ole Miss rifle team head coach Valerie Boothe has led the team for 12 years. She talked to HT.com about the types of guns and conference competition the team takes on.
“We shoot .22’s and air rifles because the SEC doesn’t support Air Rifle competition as a sponsored sport,” Coach Boothe said. “For that reason, we belong to the Great American Rifle Conference, which is a group of schools that wish to pursue air rifle competition and have joined together to do so outside of their normal conference affiliation.”
Air rifles, says Yeager, are powered by compressed air, not gun powder, like a conventional 22-caliber rifle. Position shooting, she added, is only completed with the 22 rifle.
In the past four years, the rifle team has evolved since the day Yeager first stepped on campus as a freshman member of the team.
“When we came in, the team was structured differently,” she said. “We started training differently, working out differently. We even have a nutritionist we work with who keeps us healthy and able to compete at a high competitive level.”
During Yeager’s Ole Miss shooting career, she says the moment that stands out is setting a new school record in marksmanship. “It was right off the bat at the beginning of the season and everyone just kind of came together,” she recalled with a smile. “We all had a really good time and a lot of fun. It’s memories like that over the past four years that are special to me.”
Yeager has observed many rule changes come into effect in the world of women’s shooting.
“The whole shooting sport turned upside down with recent changes,” she said. “It’ll be exciting to see how it all plays out over the next few years. The scoring rules have changed and I think it will be fun to watch. Because we have three freshman on the squad, we can watch them compete in their careers and see how the sport progresses. We have many friends who shoot in different programs and have gone to World Championships. Once we graduate, we’re still part of the shooting community and excited about progress in the sport.”
Coach Boothe, an experienced competitive shooter herself, says the atmosphere around the rifle team has changed drastically. “There really wasn’t an emphasis on offering a spectator area,” she said. “Rifle shooting was something that we kind of did behind closed doors or in the shadows. It wasn’t really talked about and not too many programs were participating. Since those early days the whole sport has changed. We’ve progressed from shooting the men’s Olympic course of fire with 22-caliber rifles and the women’s air rifle to a specialized women’s course firing small-bore rifles and the men’s air rifle. This means we used to shoot 120 shots of small bore and 40 air rounds where now we shoot 60 shots in each gun.
Coach Boothe says improvements to the shooting range at the Conference Center/National Guard complex is a great benefit to her team because the Ole Miss squad isn’t spending as much time away from class training for competitions as they once did. :These upgrades have cut down on our travel time and we’re getting our team back in the classroom a lot faster,” she added.
Today the Ole Miss shooting facility attracts a growing number of spectators. With the implementation of electronic targets, opposing teams can actually watch matches between teams in other locations on the Internet.
On Thursday the Rebel shooters watched as the Mountaineers of West Virginia took on Alaska in Morgantown, West Virginia.
Technological advances and rifle range improvements has helped Ole Miss bring in some of the best shooting recruits to join the rifle team.
“There are several major junior matches that occur across the United States every year,” Coach Boothe explained. Among those are the National Junior Olympic Match. “At these matches you’ll see the best young marksmen in the country show up and that’s why we try to have a presence at all these events so we can talk to these talented women and try to interest them in shooting for Ole Miss.”
Some women on the Ole Miss team will compete in the collegiate category or open women’s at large category at these events.
Ole Miss actually hosts an open tournament where high school girls can shoot and become familiar with the Ole Miss shooting program.
—Adam Brown, Sports Editor of HottyToddy.com firstname.lastname@example.org