After a 4-15 record and a sixth-place finish at the GARC Championships in 2010-11, the Nebraska rifle team returns seven of eight shooters in 2011-12 striving to improve on last season's results.
"Last season was not our finest," said Head Coach Morgan Hicks, who is entering her fifth season at the helm of the Nebraska rifle program. "We struggled in a lot of areas, but I feel everyone worked hard this summer and is approaching this year with a stronger realization that we need to work harder and step up our game."
Hicks noted that the year was highlighted by Janine Dutton becoming an All-American and Katie Kostal competing in the NCAA Championships, but she feels the team need to use that as a reason to get better.
"We are working better as a team and will continue to push each other to do the best and be successful," Hicks said. "I have no doubt this will be one of the best years we've had at Nebraska."
Providing the senior leadership for the Huskers in 2011-12 will be Katie Kostal, Sheena Mahloch and Katelyn Woltersdorf. Kostal, who earned a spot in the NCAA Championships competing in air rifle, shot a 567 and earned 11th place in her flight. Kostal made 13 appearances in smallbore and air rifle as a junior, and fired a career-best air rifle score of 588 late in the season.
Mahloch chalked up a combined 13 appearances last season, averaging 571.70 in air rifle. Her season high for air rifle was 579, while her best score in smallbore was 562. Her 579 score was achieved at the NCAA Qualifier.
Woltersdorf appeared in 11 meets in her first year with the Huskers, after transferring from Clark College. She picked up her season high in smallbore against UTEP, notching a 578 and capturing her first-ever event title as a Husker.
The juniors on the squad include Joyce Kim and Janine Dutton. Kim showed improvement throughout the 2010-11 campaign, making the majority of her appearances in the second half of the season. She finished eighth at the GARC Championships, scoring a season-best and team-leading 589.
Dutton captured NRA All-America honors as a sophomore, winning five individual air rifle titles and one combined title during the season. She averaged 585.71 in 14 air rifle appearances and 566.29 in 14 smallbore appearances. Dutton shot a personal-best 595 in air rifle against TCU, setting an NU sophomore record, while achieving the second-best score in Nebraska air rifle history.
Sunny Russell and ReAnn Wilson will be the duo of sophomores for the Huskers in 2011-12. In Russell's second competition of the season in 2010-11, she posted a meet-high score of 582 in smallbore, which set the highest smallbore score of the season by a Husker. Russell averaged 563.36 in 14 smallbore appearances and 574.12 in eight air rifle showings.
Wilson finished the 2010-11 season with a 570.43 average in seven air rifle appearances and 557.25 in four smallbore appearances. She twice achieved her season high of 577 in air rifle - against Memphis and Army.
The lone newcomer to the team in 2011-12 is freshman Kelsey Hansen. Hansen, a native of Minot, N.D., took silver at the 2010 National Junior Olympic Shooting Championships. She also competed in the J2 division of women's 10 m air rifle, where she posted a score of 776. Coach Hicks said she expects to see great things out of Hansen this year and for many years to come.
The Huskers will open the season against Air Force at the NU Rifle Range on Oct. 14. Two days later, Nebraska will face defending GARC champion West Virginia at home. The following weekend, the Huskers travel to Lexington, Ky., to face Ole Miss and Kentucky, who finished fourth and second, respectively, at the 2011 GARC Championships.
After three weeks off, NU heads to West Point, N.Y., to compete against Army and N.C. State. Army finished third at last year's GARC Championships, while N.C. State took seventh. Following those matches, the Huskers return to action on Nov. 19 to face Ohio State at the NU Rifle Range.
After the match against the Buckeyes, Nebraska doesn't compete again until Jan. 15 when they appear against Memphis and Murray State. Memphis finished fifth at the 2011 GARC Championships, 19 points ahead of the Huskers. Both of those matches will be contested in Murray, Ky.
Two weeks later, Nebraska travels back to Murray, Ky., for the Roger Withrow Invitational on Jan. 28. This will be the final tune-up for the Huskers before the NCAA Qualifiers in Fairbanks, Alaska on Feb. 18. One week following the NCAA Qualifiers, the Huskers visit Oxford, Miss., for the GARC Championships, where they look to improve upon their sixth-place result in 2011.
The NCAA Championships are set for March 9-10 with the site to be determined.