Records Fall in Rifle Teamís Final Match
The rifle team traveled to the University of Nevada at Reno this past weekend, March 5-6 where they competed against the Wolf Pack's air rifle national champion, Ryan Tanoue, while setting two Academy records.
The team of C1C Matthew Colvin, C2C Christopher Hill, C2C Tim Siemer and C3C Jessica Palomba combined for a school record of 2322 X 2400, six points above their previous best in the air rifle event. In addition, Hill and Palomba both shot personal bests, and Hill's 586 X 600 also tied an Academy record. Palomba's 584 X 600 was a five-point improvement on her personal record. "A huge jump for the sophomore, who is a walk-on in her first year with the team," commented assistant coach Lt Col Bill Roy.
Although the team score was an Academy-best, it still fell 14 points shy of Nevada's score of 2336 X 2400. "Reno is a tough team to beat," according to head coach Captain Justin Broughton. "They have Tanoue on their team, who is the current national champion." Tanoue shot 597 X 600, the best score recorded in the nation this year. "Going into the competition the team members said that if they could not win, they were at least going to set a record in the process, and they absolutely delivered," said Broughton.
In addition to the contributions by Hill and Palomba, Siemer shot a 575 X 600 and Colvin rolled in with a 577 X 600. Also shooting in the individual category were C2C Quinn Gallagher (571 X 600), C4C Ben Burdette (563 X 600), C4C Tom Bender (566 X 600), and C4C Justin Raines (555 X 600).
For team captain Colvin, this was the final match in an illustrious career as a Falcon. Although his score of 577 was below his personal best, he felt tremendous gratification in the team effort. "Of course, we wanted the victory, but shooting a team record still means a lot to us," said Colvin. "I asked my teammates to give it their best effort, and I'm extremely proud of the way they responded."
Colvin was not without his personal victories throughout the season, improving on his personal records more than six times, including two Academy records in one competition versus New Mexico Military Institute last February. His 589 X 600 in the smallbore event, and his 586 X 600 in air rifle was clearly the best shooting of the season by any Falcon.
Assistant coach Roy had nothing but high praise for the Spring Hill, La., native. "Matt's shooting throughout the season has been more than a pleasant surprise. We knew he would be good, but we had no idea he'd be one of the great inspirational stories of all Academy sports. He's shot through pain, injury, sickness and disappointment. In two consecutive matches, he shot 298 X 300 in the last 30 shots of the air rifle event, a feat that only two or three other shooters in the country could pull off."
In this competition, Colvin battled a stomach virus that took him out of classes in the previous weeks. But in spite of reduced practice time and less than top physical condition, he continued to lead the team with excellent shooting. "At one point in the competition, I saw Matt leaning with his forehead against the wall. Some observers might think he was frustrated or dealing with disappointment, but we all knew he was gathering himself for what we've seen him do so many times: fight for every point in spite of any detrimental factors."
Roy continued, "As the team captain, Matt has a great sense of leadership and vision. Although he's a good shot, the thing that sets him apart is he is a tremendous competitor. He wants to win, he's willing to prepare, and he knows how to work hard." Colvin, a four-year letter winner, was a walk-on as a freshman and had no previous experience as a competitive rifle shooter.
As Colvin prepared to take his last shot in this final competition as a Falcon, all of his teammates and the members of the Wolf Pack team began to fill the gallery behind the shooting line. When the final shot punched through the bulls-eye for a perfect score, the admiring onlookers broke out into applause to honor an athlete who had become their friend, their inspiration and a superb leader.
In May, following graduation, Colvin will report to Warner-Robins AFB as a systems engineer. "The Academy has been a tremendous experience," said Colvin. "I'm looking forward to jumping into a career that promises to be even more gratifying, and where I can continue to make a contribution as an Air Force officer."
As with all his endeavors, then-Second Lieutenant Colvin should be right on target.