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Rifle Readies for the NCAA Rifle Championship

Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports

As the sixth seed, Ole Miss rifle travels to Akron, Ohio, for the two-day NCAA Rifle Championships, starting on Friday, March 10. It’s the third straight year the Rebels have secured a spot on the biggest stage.
Teams will shoot smallbore on Friday and air rifle on Saturday, with two relays for each discipline followed by a final for the top eight individuals. Action begins at 8:15 a.m. CT on both days.

On the Line 

  • This is just the second time Akron has hosted the NCAA Championships. Akron Also hosted the tournament in 2016.
  • Ole Miss placed third in 2021 after 15 years of not qualifying for the tournament.
  • This season the Rebels continued to stack the program’s all-time leaderboards. In 2022-23, the rifle team fired four top-10 aggregate scores, two top-five smallbore scores, and three top-five air rifle scores.
  • The Rebels placed their program’s highest in the GARC Championships with a second-place finish. The team tied Kentucky with the highest air rifle score of 2379.
  • Ole Miss finished conference play with a 5-2 GARC record and has been 17-3 in the conference the last three seasons.
  • Derting led the field during NCAA Qualifiers with a career-high 1188 aggregate score. The senior also topped the standings with a 591 in smallbore and 587 in air rifle.
  • The Rebels’ win over UT Martin earned Coach Marsha Beasley her 200th career win.
  • The team averages the fifth-best aggregate score of 4718.4 in the nation. The Rebels are fourth in smallbore (2343.0) and fifth in air rifle (2375.4).
  • Ole Miss finished the regular season firing a 4700 or higher in 10 of their 11 matches, missing the mark in the season opener.
  • Not counting the two freshmen, five shooters tied or surpassed career highs in air rifle and aggregate and four in smallbore. Horvath, Gratz, Lambdin, and Tinsley broke all three this year.
  • Derting and Horvath are in the nation’s top-15 for average air rifle score. Derting is seventh, averaging 595.8, and Horvath averages 594.8.
  • Derting and Horvath are also in the top-10 for the average aggregate scores. Horvath averages 1184.3, and Dering averages 1182.8.
  • Horvath’s 1194 aggregate score is a program record tied for seventh highest in the nation. She also tied the school’s smallbore record of 594 twice this season.
  • Martina Gratz showed out for the best match of her career in the most critical match of the season, the NCAA Qualifiers. The junior shot career bests in all three disciplines and finished third overall.

Last Time on the Range
OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss wrapped up the 2023 GARC Championship with a second-place finish overall, the program’s best finish in school history at the tournament since joining the GARC in 2001. The Rebels fired a 2379 in air rifle for a tournament total of 4715 to fend off Kentucky.
Ole Miss’ (9-2, 5-2 GARC) air rifle score tied Kentucky for the highest as three Rebels tallied a 595 to try and track down West Virginia (16-4, 8-1 GARC) for the top spot. Unfortunately, the Mountaineers’ smallbore score was too much of a difference to overcome. Lea Horvath concluded the weekend with the highest aggregate score on the team, with an 1182. The junior from Hungary was seventh overall out of 74 competitors.
Day two began with three Rebel air rifle counters. Martina Gratz was the first Rebel to shoot a 595. The junior not only hit a high mark but also hit 50 center shots out of her 60 total, which came in huge. Emma Pereira was slightly under Gratz with a 594, tying her career high. Rounding out relay one was M’Leah Lambdin, who shot another 587, this time in air rifle.
In relay two, four Rebels, including two counters, performed well. The non-counters Claire O’Neel and Katelyn Tinsley shot a 583 and a 578, respectively. Kristen Derting and Horvath had pressure, with Kentucky taking second place from Ole Miss. Both handled the pressure well, scoring 595s.
Since Derting and Gratz both hit 50 center shots in their 595 score, they both advanced to the GARC Air Rifle Final. Eliminations started after the first 15 shots, with the two lowest-scoring shooters every five shots taken. After the 20th shot, Derting was eliminated in eighth place. Gratz lasted until the 25th shot, where she finished in fourth, firing a 259.3.
Ole Miss rifle now prepares for the NCAA Rifle Championships in Akron, Ohio, on March 10-11. The Rebels look to improve on their fourth-place finish from last season.
Pl. Team SB AR Total
1 West Virginia 2345 2377 4722
2 Ole Miss 2336 2379 4715
3 Kentucky 2335 2379 4714
4 Navy 2325 2373 4698
5 Akron 2330 2364 4694
6 Memphis 2318 2371 4689
7 North Carolina St. 2325 2357 4682
8 Army 2301 2333 4634
Coach Marsha Beasley

  • Eight-time NCAA Championship head coach.
  • Sixth season coaching the Rebels
  • Earned her 200th victory against UT Martin this season
  • Two-time College Rifle Coaches Association Coach of the Year with Ole Miss, has guided six Rebels to All-American honors and 12 to All-GARC honors
  • Inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 2022 after coaching at the school for 16 seasons
  • Drafted the bylaws to create the Mid-America Rifle Conference (now GARC) and was a staff member at the (then) national governing body of shooting (the NRA) and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games 

Scouting the Opponent
Air Force
Led by former Smallbore Gold Medalist Launi Meili in her 16th season, the Falcons were selected to compete in the NCAA Rifle Championships for the ninth straight season and 21st overall. Air Force is slated as the eighth seed with 9424.3 total points, going 11-8 on the season. The Falcons also placed fourth in the PRC Championships behind TCU, Alaska Fairbanks and Nebraska.
Air Force is seventh in the nation in average aggregate scoring with a 4704.2, ninth in smallbore average with a 2330.1 and sixth in air rifle with a 2374.1. The Falcons are led by their women, with three of their top four players for aggregate scoring being female. Peninah D’Souza leads the team averaging a 1179.1 aggregate score and a 595.8 air rifle. Morgan Kreb is their top shooter in smallbore, averaging 584.6. Scott Rocket is second highest with a 1177.1 aggregate average.
Alaska Fairbanks
The Nanooks are coached by second-year head coach Will Anti. Alaska Fairbanks comes into the NCAA Championships as the third seed after scoring a 9482.3 total score and going 11-0 on the season. The program will appear on the biggest stage for the 35th time. The Nanooks also placed second in their conference championship behind TCU.
Alaska Fairbanks is second in the nation with an aggregate average of 4741.7 behind TCU by just .2 points. The team is also second in air rifle with a 2383.2 average but leads the nation in smallbore average with a 2358.5. The team comprises three shooters in the nation’s top-10 for aggregate average. Ryan Kissell is fifth in the nation with a 1186.3 aggregate average. The sophomore leads the nation with his 598.3 air rifle average. Kissell is one of six shooters this season to score a perfect 600 in air rifle. Peter Fiori and Kellen McAferty are also in the top-10, with aggregate averages of 1185.2 and 1183.4. Fiori is fourth in the nation for smallbore average of 590.5.
The Wildcats are coached by four-time GARC Coach of the Year Harry Mullins in his 36th season. Kentucky came into the season as the defending national champions and has won three of the last four NCAA Championships (2018, 2021, 2022). Kentucky was also the number-one seed in 2020 when the championships were canceled. The Wildcats are eyeing their fourth in five years after earning the fifth seed in the tournament this season. Kentucky shot a 4716 in their National Qualifier match and finished with .67 above the Rebels. The Wildcats also claimed the GARC regular season title but placed third in the conference championship.
As a team, Kentucky averages an aggregate score of 4720.2 per match, which is fourth in the nation. Freshman Sofia Ceccarello leads the Wildcats. She joined the Wildcats after being part of the Italy team in the Tokyo Olympics, who made the finals. Ceccarello is averaging a 1187.6 aggregate score, which is fourth in the nation. She also averaged 598.2 in air rifle (3rd) and claimed GARC Air Rifle Champion. Ceccarello is joined by fellow fifth-year senior and CRCA Smallbore, Air Rifle, and Aggregate All-American Richard Clark. He averages the second-highest aggregate score on the team of 1181.1. Can’t forget about their fifth-year senior Will Shaner, who won the NCAA smallbore national championship last year and is an Olympic Gold Medalist in air rifle.
Murray State
The Racer comes in the NCAA Championships as the fourth seed in their 35th appearance all-time. The team was on the verge of getting in until they shot their season high in their NCAA Qualifiers with a 4740. Head Coach Alan Lollar and Murray State look to back up that performance on the biggest stage.
The team averages an aggregate score below 4700 with an eighth-best 4696.8 per match. Murray State is also seventh best in smallbore, averaging a 2332.5. The Racers are led by upperclassman Matias Kiuru. The senior averages an aggregate score of 1179.9 as well as 586.5 in smallbore and 593.4 in air rifle. The second-best average on the team goes to freshman Paola Paravati. The Rome, Italy native shoots a 1175.1 aggregate average, a 585.0 smallbore average, and a 590.1 air rifle average.
In her first season as head coach, Mindy Miles has led the Cornhuskers to the NCAA Championships as the seventh seed. Nebraska will make their 19th appearance since 2000 after missing it last season. The team also finished in third at the PRC Championships behind TCU and Alaska Fairbanks.
Nebraska has the sixth-highest aggregate average with 4710.1, the sixth-highest smallbore average of 2336.6 and the seventh-highest air rifle average of 2373.5. Cecelia Ossi leads the Cornhuskers with a 1181.8 aggregate average. The junior also leads the team in smallbore average with a 587.7. However, Emma Rhodes has the top air rifle average, firing a 594.4 per match. The freshman is also second in aggregate average with 1178.0.
The Horned Frogs come into the NCAA Championships as the No. 1 team in the nation after averaging a 4741.8 aggregate score per match. It is the program’s 17th straight NCAA appearance and looking for its first national title since 2019. TCU also came away as PRC Champions, edging out Alaska Fairbanks.
They also lead the nation with an air rifle average of 2385.5 but are second in smallbore average of 2356.2. Freshman Julie Johannessen has been impressive in her first season. Her second-best aggregate average of 1190.1 and her air rifle a 597.3. The Norway native leads the nation with a 592.8 smallbore average. She broke the NCAA smallbore record, shooting a 598 and has hit a perfect 600 twice. TCU’s Stephanie Grundsoe sports the nation’s third-best smallbore, air rifle, and aggregate average.
West Virginia
Led by Head Coach Jon Hammond since 2006, the Mountaineers have been in the national spotlight. West Virginia once again will once again compete in the NCAA Rifle National Championships as the No. 2 seed after going 16-4 overall and 8-1 in the conference. The team shot a 4741 in their NCAA qualifier and finished 9.34 points below the No. 1-seeded TCU. The Mountaineers also claimed their 15th GARC Championship title.
West Virginia averages an aggregate score of 4731.6, which is third in the nation. The Mountaineers have yet to shoot under a 4712 all season long. They are led by one of the best shooters in the nation, Mary Tucker. The senior averages a nation-best 1190.2 aggregate score averaging 598.3 in air rifle (2nd) and 591.8 in smallbore (2nd). Tucker is the reigning CRCA Most Valuable Shooter of the Year and NCAA Overall Individual National Champion. The Mountaineers’ number two is Malori Brown, who averages 1178.9 aggregate.
Tournament Counters
Kristen Derting
Martina Gratz
Lea Horvath
M’Leah Lambdin
Emma Periera
Friday, March 11, Smallbore (CT)
8:15 am – Relay 1
11:00 pm – Relay 2
~1:30 – Individual smallbore finals
Saturday, March 12, Air Rifle (CT)
8:15 am – Relay 1
10:30 pm – Relay 2
~12:30 – Individual air rifle finals
Awards Upon Completion of Finals
NCAA Championships History
This season marks the third straight year Ole Miss qualified for the NCAA Rifle Championships. After a 15-year drought, the Rebels placed their highest in program history at third overall after shooting a 4710. The Rebels followed it up the next season with a fourth-place finish despite shooting a better score of 4713.
First Time Flyers
Three of the five counters flying to Akron compete at the NCAA Championships for the first time. Gratz and Lambdin earned their spot in their third and second season by getting hot at the right time. In her last five matches, Gratz is averaging 595.4 in air rifle and career-highs in all three disciplines during the NCAA Qualifiers. She also advanced to the GARC Air Rifle Finals and finished fourth place. Lambdin also broke career highs in smallbore and aggregate scores. The sophomore also advanced to the GARC Smallbore Finals and placed fourth. Pereira began the season as a smallbore counter, then took a spot as an air rifle counter late in the season. She shot 594 three times this season, including the last two matches.
We’re IN
Ole Miss rifle earned a spot in the NCAA Rifle Championships for the third consecutive year as the sixth seed. They will be joined by TCU, West Virginia, Alaska Fairbanks, Murray State, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Nebraska, and Air Force.
Horvathing A Good Time
Lea Horvath became the only woman in NCAA history to score a perfect 600 in air rifle three times in their career. The junior has scored perfect in every season of her career as a Rebel. She is one of seven to shoot perfect this season.
Horvath also broke some school records. She tied the match smallbore score with a 594 twice this year and three times total. She shattered the record for match aggregate score, which she previously held with 1194.
ConGratz on a Stellar Day
The Rebels are hitting their stride at the perfect time in the season. Martina Gratz is one of the Rebels after a monster NCAA qualifier match. The Sigel, Illinois native, smashed career-highs in smallbore, air rifle and aggregate.
Gratz’s previous smallbore career high set back in her freshman year was a 584. The junior broke it two years later with a 586. She excelled in air rifle, firing a 597, which is higher than the 596 she’s hit three times. After combining those two scores for an 1183 aggregate, Gratz surpassed her previous mark of 1175.
M’leah Lambdin had a career day in the Rebels’ 4725-4721 win over Memphis on Saturday. She broke both her career-high in smallbore and aggregate score. In smallbore, the sophomore shot a 590, which puts her on a small list of shooters. The mark was seven points higher than her previous high. After also shooting a 590 in air rifle, Lambdin finished with an 1180 aggregate score of six points higher than her previous high. It’s also 19 points higher than her season-high.
After such an outstanding performance, Lambdin was named a smallbore counter for the NCAA Qualifier. It was her first time being a counter for any discipline this season.
Freshman Duo
In their first year at Ole Miss, Julianna Hays and Emma Pereira significantly impacted the lineup. They are two of the 38 different shooters to score a 590 or above in the nation in smallbore. From Maplewood, Minnesota, Hays has been a counter for the team in both smallbore and air rifle all season. She shot 591 and twice shot a 593 in air rifle this season. She is third on the team for smallbore average, air rifle and aggregate score.
Pereira is one of Ole Miss’ five smallbore counters and has joined air rifle counters late in the season. She shot a 594 air rifle against No. 3 Kentucky. She scored 590 in smallbore and 1183 aggregate against No. 12 Murray State. All were season and career highs.

Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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