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TCU women’s rifle are top-ranked heading into the NCAA championships March 12-13. Courtesy TCU

Women’s rifle might be the smallest caliber sport at TCU, but they still deliver quite the punch without packing stadiums. Our ladies are the defending national Collegiate Rifle champions from 2019 due to the 2020 misfire of basically all spring athletics. An NCAA sport since 1980, Collegiate Rifle is niche, contained within five conferences, three of which are rifle exclusive. There are only 27 programs in the country and five of them are women’s teams. Competitions are a co-ed affair with women’s and mixed squads shooting in tandem, but our Lady Frogs are far and away the most successful all-female team.

 

Somewhat surprisingly in our gun-toting state, there are only two rifle programs in Texas, the Frogs and the Miners of the University of Texas-El Paso, who are also a ladies-only club. Rifle matches are broken into two categories: Air Rifle and Smallbore Rifle. Air Rifle is fairly simple in that each competitor is trying to achieve a shot as close to the bullseye as possible from a standing position. Athletes shoot 60 times for a maximum score of 10 (technically, 10.9 is perfect) points per shot. For the math deficient, like myself, that means a perfect score is 600 points.

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Smallbore runs similarly in that each shooter will attempt 60 shots but broken into 20 from standing, crouching, and prone positions. Each match score is based around five competitive shooters whose scores count toward the team total, and the top four of the scores are logged with the lowest dropped. Therefore, a perfect individual score is 1,200 between the two events, and a perfect team score is 4,800. To gather perspective about how difficult a feat this is and how impressive the Frogs are, TCU sophomore Stephanie Grundsoee shot a perfect 600 in the Air Rifle event against UTEP at the end of January. Her flawless round was only the 11th recorded in NCAA history, but four of them were shot by three different Frogs.

 

The Rifle Frogs are currently ranked first in the country. They’re vying to defend their title in Columbus, Ohio, during Spring Break and if successful would add a fourth trophy to their case. Their roster is selective at only nine shooters, four of which are in-state products. But, as their success and reputation grows, so does the net of potential recruits. Nina Schuett, the team’s only freshman, is in Funkytown via Montana. Grundsoee is from Denmark but attended a top sports high school in Norway. She is also a member of the Danish national team and has competed at a World Cup.

 

The most recognizable name on the purple’s roster is Elizabeth Marsh, and that’s because she’s the defending individual Smallbore national champion. Originally from Arkansas, the senior has been competing internationally since she was 15 years old. Marsh is a member of the USA national team and holds several individual titles from her high school years. Safe to say these girls didn’t just pick up a squirrel gun one day and decide they would go shoot for TCU.

 

So which team is the biggest threat to the Frogs’ title? The most obvious answer is always the Mountaineers from West Virginia, who’ve won a staggering 19 championships since the establishment of the sport. Despite holding the fourth overall ranking, the Neers’ possess the pedigree to hit their mark in clutch situations. Our Frogs are undefeated this season and fell only once last year before their season was cut short. That loss was against West Virginia in a match that the aggregate team scores were a tie, so it was awarded via tiebreaker — which team had the most center or bullseye shots scored 10.25 or above — to the Mountaineers. Also concerning is that WVU shot a team aggregate of 4,734 in three-consecutive duels this season and capped off that streak with a 4,737. In contrast, the Frogs best score during this season is a 4,738 but have averaged between 20-30 points lower than that.

 

The Kentucky Wildcats — who are second-ranked — have also posted a better consistent average than TCU but haven’t recorded an outlier standout match that bests the Frogs.

 

Ultimately — like almost all sports — the NCAA championships will be seized by the team who can deliver their best on competition day. Fort Worth firepower will need to show their steadiest hands to replicate their best performance to retain their title above two teams who are ranked below them but have ultimately shown themselves more consistent throughout the season.

 

 

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