Head coach Launi Meili is now in her third season with the Air Force Academy rifle team. Over the past three seasons, Meili has made some major improvements with the way the team executes its practice schedule and the matches both at home and away. Since her arrival at the Academy, Air Force has added a gold medalist in the President's Trophy Match (All-Services Academies) and had three-time NRA All American (2009, 2010), their first since 2006 (Chris Hill).
Q. The team is returning from a 6-10 record. Where do you see the team improving on the six wins from last year?
A: We compete against the top teams in the country, and we have a ways to go to be able to beat them. We will have the same team returning this year, so we are coming to the line with more experience and expectations. I believe we will be more competitive this year against Nebraska, Army and Navy and hopefully have a level win - loss record.
Q. You have senior Tom Chandler as team captain returning for his final season with the Falcons. Who do you see stepping up in a leadership role alongside of Chandler?
A: Robert Vasquez takes on everything we ask of him, and I really rely on his calm demeanor and the way he leads by example.
Q: You've added four new team members, who are all freshmen. What role will the freshmen play on this year's team? Are there any standouts that our fans should watch for?
A: Right now, we are really in the building phase of their training with a lot of changes both physically and mentally. By the end of the year, we'll see who steps up and is ready to make a presence on the counting team.
Q: Air Force is hosting five consecutive home matches in 2010-11 against some nationally ranked teams. How do you see Air Force measuring up to these teams?
A. TCU are national champions, so we'll really have to bring our A game just to compete against that squad. Alaska is also consistently ranked in the top-two teams, but it takes competing against consistently tough teams to really know what it's going to take to be contenders at the national championships.
I believe we are ready to take on UTEP and Reno with our scores, but you are always trying to shoot a match score to get you to nationals no matter who is on the line next to you. The best three match scores you shoot over the season is half the qualifying score needed to make it to nationals, so every match counts.
Q: In June 2010, junior Mike Seery became the Academy's first men's USA Shooting Junior National rifle champion in the 50-meter prone and was a member of the 2010 U.S. Junior World Championships rifle team. How does it feel to have that caliber of marksman on this team?
A: Mike has worked hard and competed on his own in many matches to rise to the level he is now in Men's Prone. It feels great to have someone on the National Development Team to show that it can be done at the Academy, and Mike really deserves all the credit for his determination.
Q: Do you and Seery feel he can achieve this same level of competition again this season?
A: There won't be a junior world team selected this year as that event is held every four years. This is the Pan American Games "year" and only the top-two individuals (open to all competitors, not just juniors) make the team. Mike is closing in on the scores shot at the open level, but it's a very competitive two places to shoot for (where scores are near perfect 600's) so we'll see how he improves over the year.
Q: Is there anything else you would like our fans to know about the upcoming season?
A: By missing the national championships by just two points last year, we are determined and working hard to break into the top-eight teams and be competitive at that level.