Honors and Awards
Placed Seventh in Air Rifle at U.S. National Championships (2003)
Two-time U.S. National Championship Qualifier (2001-03)
NRA First-Team All-American in Air Rifle (2002)
National Junior Olympic Rifle Bronze Medalist, Women’s Air Rifle (2002)
NRA Second-Team All-American in Air Rifle (2001)
CRCA Academic Scholar (2001, 2002, 2003)
Nebraska Athletic Department Honors Medallion (2001, 2002, 2003)
Five-time Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll (Fall 2000-01-02; Spring 2001-03)
Pennsylvania Air Rifle Bronze Medalist (2000)
Pennsylvania State Intermediate Junior Smallbore Champion (2000)
One of the veterans of the 2003-04 squad, senior Melissa Downsbrough has enjoyed success at the collegiate and national levels. The senior from State College, Pa., is a two-time All-American, earning first-team honors in 2002 and second-team honors as a freshman. In addition to her three years of collegiate competition, she is a two-time U.S. National qualifier and placed third at the 2002 Junior Olympics. According to Head Coach Launi Meili, Downsbrough’s experience in high-pressure matches has helped her develop leadership skills that will be vital for a Husker team that returned three shooters from last season.
"The things Melissa has learned shooting in college and international competition make her a great team captain," Meili said. "She is a consistent shooter and sets a good example for the team and helps them fix their mistakes to become better."
Downsbrough was one of the Huskers’ most consistent performers in 2002-03, ranking among the team leaders in both air rifle (387) and smallbore (1,159) average. She competed in every match except for the Roger Withrow Invitational, and posted 13 top-five finishes in 17 possible events, including three event titles. Her best meet occurred in the win over UMKC on Nov. 23, when she swept both the smallbore (1,164) and air rifle (391) titles. Her other win came against Air Force on Feb. 7, when she claimed the air rifle title with a 390 in a loss to the Falcons. Downsbrough’s best score occurred in a three-way meet against defending NCAA Champion Alaska-Fairbanks and UTEP on Jan. 10, when she finished second in the air rifle with a career-high mark of 394 while setting her then-season high in the smallbore with a 1,171. The following day, she put up her third season best in as many meets, scoring a 1,172 - her highest score since the 2000-01 campaign - in the smallbore to place fifth in the event. In all, she raised her smallbore average by three points.
Downsbrough improved her season average in air rifle to 389, which led to a first-team All-American selection in 2002. A tough competitor, her improved consistency led to several top finishes in competition. One of the Huskers’ best all-around shooters, Downsbrough won or finished second in eight of 11 air rifle competitions. She shot a career-best 396 in air rifle against 120 other shooters from around the nation at the Roger Withrow Invitational on Jan. 26.
Downsbrough’s success was not limited to air rifle, as she claimed the individual smallbore title vs. Air Force, with a score of 1,160. Her best smallbore performance of the year came against Ohio State, where she tallied 1,165, tying for second place overall with teammate Amanda Trujillo.
Downsbrough showed the poise of a veteran in her first season at Nebraska. The State College, Pa., native placed in the top 10 among all competitors in every regular-season smallbore match, including finishing in the top five seven times. As impressive as Downsbrough was with the smallbore rifle, she was also among Nebraska’s top three air rifle shooters. In her first six matches, Downsbrough averaged 385.5, and increased her average score to 388.7 in her last six matches. Downsbrough demonstrated her composure in the Huskers’ match with Alaska-Fairbanks, when she rebounded from a disappointing smallbore score to fire a then-career-high air rifle score of 391. One day later against UTEP, Downsbrough increased her then-season best to 392 capturing her first individual title. At the NCAA Championships, she fired a season-best 393 to help the Huskers to their second consecutive runner-up finish in the air rifle. Downsbrough fired a 390 or better four times in her last five matches, a mark she reached just once in the first five matches of the season. Her performance helped her become one of three Huskers to earn NRA All-America honors in the air rifle.
As a Junior Competitor
Coached by Ernie Harpster, Downsbrough was a member of the Tussey Mountain Junior Rifle team and was also on the Pennsylvania state all-star team that claimed the national three-position air rifle championship. Downsbrough has qualified for the National Junior Olympic Rifle Championships five times, most recently claiming third place in air rifle at the 2002 championships. A standout in the classroom as well, Downsbrough was a member of three State College Quiz Bowl national championship teams. She selected Nebraska over M.I.T., Yale, Kentucky and the U.S. Military Academy.
The daughter of George and Tamara Downsbrough, Melissa was born Jan. 31, 1983. She has two sisters, Lea, 18, and Leschia Ruhe, 30. Melissa is a biology and physics major and holds a 3.425 grade-point average.