Rifle team to open the 2007-08 season at UTEP
Sept. 30, 2007
Launi Meili, the new head coach of the USAF Academy Cadet Rifle team, stood in the midst of her new team, 14 cadets with sharp eyes, steady hands, and high, high hopes. They were all staring at the object Coach Meili had cradled in her hand.
"This gold medal was a gift for me to share with everyone," said the coach, "and the way I'm going to share it with you is through the work we'll do together this season." The cherished medal, burnished and heavy, dangled from the same ribbon placed around her neck when she won the Smallbore Rifle competition in the 1992 Olympiad in Barcelona, Spain.
The cadets watched and listened intently, all of them dreaming of a time when a medal might be placed around their necks atop a victory stand.
"We've certainly got a lot to do," warned the coach. "But if you're willing to channel the motivation inside you into hard, hard work, I can help you reach your goals." At that moment, 14 shooters shared one vision: working toward competitive excellence.
Indeed, this season will mark a turn in the fortunes of the shooting Falcons. After a challenging season last year that produced only three victories, the cadets are ready to charge ahead with a new coach, new equipment, new shooters, and a new attitude.
"We've got every reason to succeed this year," said senior cadet Justin Raines, the team captain. "We've learned a lot in the past few seasons, and I absolutely believe that Coach Meili will help us pull it all together. Plus," he added, "we've got some shooters who will simply rock!" In addition to leading the Falcons, Raines is a Rhodes Scholarship candidate and program manager for the Academy's Falcon Launch Rocket program.
Eight incoming freshmen will form a powerful core for the future, and Tom Chandler and Nick Krieger are among those who could make an immediate contribution. In addition, assistant coach Lt. Col. Bill Roy will continue to encourage the team to work toward their lofty goals.
As Meili concluded her discussion, one of the team members hoisted the medal, testing its weight in his hands. "It feels good," he said with a smile. "But I want to know how it feels when the medal I win is placed on my neck."
The coach grinned. The expression on her face was clear: "Soon enough," she thought. "Soon enough."