Sept. 27, 2013
When the Air Force rifle team takes the line for the first time in 2013, it will already be ranked seventh in the Division I NCAA Polls (Aug. 27, 2013). The team will be without senior leadership and will be looking to improve on its national team finish (fifth) from last season.
Head Coach Launi Meili has no seniors and only two juniors, who will be the lead anchors for the team. However, Meili, and assistant coach Mike Anti, are not worried about the 2013-14 team because the returning team members are seasoned competitors coming from one of the school's best collegiate seasons in over 10 years.
Last year, the rifle team finished with an 18-3 record, had a 13-game win streak (Nov. 3, 2012 to Feb. 9, 2013), finished with a No. 7 ranking in the College Rifle Coaches Association Poll (CRCA), won the President's Trophy Match for the first time in 12 years, set three team records and several personal records, made its first national appearance in the NCAA Championships since 2003 to top the season off with a fifth-place national ranking. Two student-athletes were selected as All-Americans (first and second team) and one was a Capitol One Academic All-American (Men's) Team (first team) as well as an Academic All-District 7 honoree (Matt Kluckman, class of 2013).
With all this past season experience, the coaches are not worried about the upcoming 2013-14 season or the Air Force Academy rifle team's future goals, not when they have the returning members and the class of 2017 on the line. Six universities join the newly formed Patriot Rifle Conference (PRC).
Beginning this fall, the Patriot Rifle Conference will begin competition with head-to-head matches throughout the season and a conference championship scheduled at Ohio State, Feb. 8-9, in Columbus.
The six members announced the establishment of the PRC in the spring of 2013, and going into effect starting with the 2013-14 season. Charter members include the Air Force Academy, TCU, Ohio State, Nevada, UTEP, and the University of Alaska. The conference championship scheduled for February 2014 in Columbus, Ohio, will include smallbore on Saturday and air rifle on Sunday. USA Shooting Hall of Fame member and 1992 Olympic gold medalist, Launi Meili, the current coach at Air Force will serve as the commissioner of the PRC.
"We are very excited about the Patriot Rifle Conference," said Meili. "The PRC will give our student-athletes a home of their own to compete in with a championship to look forward to."
"We're looking to pick up where we left off last year and continue to gain ground toward the national championships. Everyone who's score counted for us last year at the nationals will be returning. So now that we know how to do it, it's time to pick up the pace and compete with the top programs in the country. Over the summer, we added another member of our team to the US National Development team with David Higgins's performance at the USA Shooting National Championships. So we have three members on the national team and have a few more knocking on the door to make it as well. We are gaining depth and experience and it will serve us well as the conference we've entered will be challenging with so many great programs present."
Returning Members: The junior class is Meredith Carpentier from Waukegan, Ill., and Craig O'Daniel from Lebanon, Ky. Carpentier returns as a second team All-American in both smallbore and air rifle. Sophomores David Higgins from San Clemente, Calif., Kevyn Stinett from Colorado Springs, Colo., and Tyler Rico from Tucson, Ariz., who is also a returning first team All-American (air rifle), all return having an NCAA championship under their belts. The freshmen class of Mary Simonton from Sharpsburg, Ga., Ryan Jacobs, Gresham, Ore., and Noah Kwock, Honolulu, Hawaii, will support the seasoned members and are expected to perform well in the coming year.
Visit www.usashooting.org for the latest news release on the NCAA rifle season