2005-06 rifle season is full of hopes and dreams
In the sport of rifle shooting, much of what happens is measured in the tiniest increments. The bull's eye, for instance, is no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.
Nevertheless, for the members of the Air Force Academy's NCAA Rifle Team, the upcoming season is full of huge hopes and dreams. With the naming of a permanent civilian head coach, five returning lettermen and a crop of promising newcomers, the shooting Falcons believe their season goals of NCAA prominence are right on target.
Currently in his seventh year as head coach, Major Justin Broughton will be hanging up his full time Air Force blue suit after having been named the civilian head coach starting in October. "I'm honored to be hired on as the coach, and even more excited for the long-term stability of our program," said Broughton. "The Academy is committed to this team, and the team members, in turn, are committed to making it great."
Leading the Falcons' quest for greatness are senior team captains Chris Hill and Tim Siemer. Hill, a two-time All-American, set or tied several Academy records last year, and hopes to lead his team to the NCAA Finals this year, where they could compete in both the smallbore and air rifle events. Hill's personal goal of achieving a score of 593 X 600 in both events would be a big step for him and the team. Likewise, co-captain Seimer has high expectations for himself and his teammates. "The only thing we lack in our quest for NCAA prominence this year is practice, practice, practice. We'll get plenty of that in the coming months." Seimer added, "We've got a superb attitude, eager rookies, an awesome plan, and a total fighting spirit."
Also in the hunt for greatness will be junior Jessica Palomba, who had the team's third-highest score in air rifle last year (584 X 600), and could be a legitimate candidate for All-American this season. She will be pushed by sophomores Tom Bender and Justin Raines, who expect to compete for a spot on the top "Blue" team. Since rifle matches typically consist of competing four-person teams, the depth that Bender or Raines offers will be invaluable. Also returning this season is the team manager, senior Kurt Degerlund and his assistant, freshman Kavir Patel. Together the two managers will maintain the most advanced collegiate range facility and execute the smoothest running contests in the NCAA.
The Falcons are also excited about their newest members, four of which are walk-ons. Freshmen Daniel Cannard, Andrew Cooper, Brian Jarrell, Ryan Lowenstein, Clifton Mulkey, and Chelsea Welsh began the season shooting scores well above last year's rookies, and sophomore walk-on Jennifer Hassan brings a mix of maturity and determination that should benefit all the newcomers. Mulkey, from Amarillo, Texas, was a state junior Olympic champion, and if early indications hold true, he will be a starter on the Blue team and an All-American candidate. Cooper, from Canon City, Colo., was a member of the Colorado state champion air rifle and smallbore teams. His competitive experience and initial scores will give the team even more depth in air rifle and will push the veterans for a spot on the top team.
If the team is looking for great moments, they will certainly have plenty of opportunities in which to achieve them. Early in the season, AFA will compete against perennial Powerhouses University of Nebraska and the US Naval Academy, as well as the US Military Academy, the defending NCAA National Champion, and members of the US National Team. With ten major competitions this season, the Falcons will have plenty of "shots" at achieving their goals.
Assistant coach Lt Colonel Bill Roy, who joined the team last year, was extremely optimistic about this season's prospects and team chemistry. "We may not have the best talent in the country, but we'll definitely have the best team. We've got tremendous cadet leadership, and their lofty aspirations should really drive us to some phenomenal performances." Between the coaches, the cadets, and all they hope to achieve, the season promises to be another fulfilling and successful experience for the Academy's NCAA Rifle Team.