TCU’s rifle team proves its best in country, brings home four national titles

Courtesy of TCU Athletics

TCU has another national championship to its name.

The rifle team took home the national championship over the weekend with an impressive showing in Morgantown, West Virginia.

“Every time you win, whether it’s a regular season match or a bigger match, it’s a good accomplishment,” said Karen Monez, TCU’s rifle coach since June 2004.

“But winning a national championship is so special, so special for the team members. That’s been the goal for them. It’s the most special part of this to see them reach it.”

It’s the third national championship TCU can claim in rifle, along with 2010 and 2012. Additionally, freshman Kristen Hemphill took home the individual title in air rifle, the first Horned Frog in program history to claim an individual title in air rifle.

Sophomore Elizabeth Marsh won the individual smallbore title.

In all, TCU brought four of five national championship trophies awarded back to Fort Worth.

Asked to explain the sport to a casual sports fan, Monez said: “It’s a sport that, to develop to the level to win a national championship or any type of international match, it takes years of developing and technical ability. Along with that goes developing a mental tenacity.

“All of these girls started at a young age getting involved in this sport and developing a love for it. They have a passion for the sport and most of them are pursuing higher goals whether they want to be a world champion or Olympic champion or NCAA champion. It takes specialized equipment and just a lot of hard work.”

TCU has a first-class shooting range on campus that the rifle team members spend countless hours at honing their craft. The target is essentially the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

It’s that precise. There is no margin for error.

“Every time they step up to the match line, they’ve got to go in there with the attitude that they’ve got to be the best they can be for this given day, making sure they give 100 percent,” Monez said. “They have to be focused on performance and not outcome. A match is 60 shots and putting together a shot preparation, a good shot release and follow through is essential. You have to do it 60 times.

“At matches now, they play music and there’s a lot of background noise, so you just have to learn to ignore that and just stay focused on what you’re doing.”

The TCU squad did it better than anyone when the stakes were at its highest.

Hemphill and freshman Angeline Henry finished 1-2 in the air rifle, and were the last two competitors standing with identical scores of 227.9. Hemphill won by firing a 9.8 and 10.5 on her final two shots compared to Henry’s 9.4 and 10.6. Yes, three tenths is all that separated first from second.

The good news for TCU is that it is only losing one shooter, senior Rachel Garner, from this year’s national championship-winning team.

“I’m just very proud of them,” Monez said. “They played like champions.”

TCU athletics director Jeremiah Donati is entering his first fall season at the helm. He's done quite a bit in a short time, and is excited for his first full school year.

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Drew Davison is the TCU and Big 12 sports writer for the Star-Telegram. He’s covered everything in DFW from Rangers to Cowboys to motor sports.