This spring's award program honored over 25 student-athletes for their athletic excellence.
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Captains: Josh Estrada ’17, Nick Harris ’17 and Sarah Zimmerman ’17
Highlights: Gold Medal Award winner Matt Lovre ’17 breaking the school record with a score of 280, set the year prior by co-captain and fellow Gold Medal Award winner Nick Harris.
Athletic Awards: Gold Medal Awards: Nick Harris and Matt Lovre; Most Valuable Shooter: Josh Estrada; Most Improved Shooters: Ethan Ellis ’19 and Elizabeth Hoffman ’20; Coaches Award: Duncan Ostrom ’17.
In all his 19 years of coaching riflery, Head Coach Diccon Ong '81 has never seen a season quite like this.
"We've been pretty successful over the last several seasons, and it seems we've gotten stronger and stronger," he said. "This was a really great season for us."
It was an unexpected, pleasant surprise for the coach, who had anticipated spending the year rebuilding a strong team after the graduation of some talented marksmen last May. Instead, he saw a tremendously successful season, with a group climbing their way into near-consistent, high team scores of 1300, indicating an individual average of 260, and with his top precision shooter breaking the school record. He also saw two of his athletes, Matt Lovre and Nick Harris receive Gold Medals for their exceptional athleticism.
His top marksman and record-breaker was Lovre, a West Point-bound postgraduate, who joined the team this year, much to the surprise and delight of the returning team members.
"We had run into him a couple of times at competitions," Ong explained. "He was kind of a star in our minds."
According to team co-captain Joshua Estrada, Lovre not only brought high scores, but an enthusiastic willingness to help his teammates become better athletes.
"It was a little intimidating at first," admitted Estrada. "But he really fit in with the team. As a more experienced marksman, he definitely gave us a lot of pointers and tips, which were really helpful. And being an already stellar marksman, he also pushed some of the other team members to rise to that level."
With a score of 280, Lovre broke the school record of 279, set the previous year by co-captain Harris. To put in perspective, the national junior record is 284.
You might say that riflery stands out among the athletic lineups at Reserve; it isn't one that brings in spectators and wild crowds, and its unconventional scoring system can make some heads spin. But to overlook this sport would be a mistake; riflery takes discipline, work and motivation. This season, the riflery athletes dug in deep and worked hard at each practice and match, and saw incredible success in a sport that requires a lot of independence and self-analysis.
"It's a very cerebral sport," described Ong. "It requires that you be very introspective. In that sense, it can be difficult to coach. I spend a lot of time teaching them form and correct positioning, but once the kids have shot for a couple of years, everything that is happening that is important, everything that they need to do differently to improve from where they are now, is something that's invisible to me. Really, I'm trying to teach kids to be able to effectively coach themselves."
This is something both Estrada and Harris confirmed wholeheartedly, and it is an aspect of the sport that they value and speak of with great pride.
"With riflery, it's all about you," said Harris. "It is a team sport, but the improvement is completely up to whether or not the precision-shooter is willing, and what's more, the way that you work hard in riflery is not physical. It's about learning how you can best relax, and figuring out what's the best position for you. It's very introspective, on a larger scale."
Ong attributes some of his team's success to their high performances in the face of pressure. Because the amount of schools who compete in riflery is considerably less than a sport like basketball or wrestling, the riflery team either has to travel great distances for their matches or they compete through postal matches, which means they fire at their own range and submit their scores.
To create a competitive environment on their own range, Ong implemented match days for every Friday, where the marksmen participate in an intrasquad competition. Their scores determine their position on the 24-member team, which means their position on the team could change every seven days.
It certainly fostered an intense environment for the marksmen.
"In that sense, you are a number," said Estrada. "At the end of the week, you are literally ranked and your placement on the line, so spots 1-12, is determined by how well you shot the week prior. So you always know who did better or worse, and you're always trying to one-up each other."
Along with their competitive spirit, however, the riflery team is also known for their close camaraderie and encouraging atmosphere.
"It's definitely very competitive, but even so, at the end of the day, we're all family," said Estrada.
Now that the season is over, Harris and Estrada both said they were extremely happy to be leaders of the team that capped their riflery experience with an excellent season.
"I'm proud, as a member of the team, to be a part of that, and also proud as the captain to have been one of the leaders," said Estrada. "I'm really looking forward to [seeing] how the team moves on from this and how much better they'll be. I'd also add that there were stellar performances by the freshmen. I'm not worried at all about the future of the team."
Captains: Graham Sell ’16 and Taryn Washburn ’16
Athletic Awards: Most Valuable Shooter: Nicholas R. Harris ’17 and Graham M. Sell ’16; Most Improved Shooter: Taryn E. Washburn ’16 and Xueying (Judy) Yin ’19; Coaches Award: Rhianna L. Lichtenthal ’16
The 2015–16 season for the WRA Riflery Team was arguably one of the most successful seasons in the program’s 30-year history. Coach Diccon Ong ’81 acknowledged that while the team had graduated many skilled marksmen last spring, this year’s team was full of great talent and an inspiring dedication to hard work.
This year, the team competed in fifteen formal competitions, including four postal matches and eleven shoulder-to-shoulder events. Of these events, they took home victories at all four dual matches, received first place at the Wildcat Invitational, the IPS Invitational and at our WRA Invitational. At Camp Perry Open, one of the most competitive rifle events in the country, they were prevented from taking home a third-place trophy by just four missed points.
It was a season marked by tremendous efforts toward improvement.
New shooters such as Ethan Ellis ’19, Flora Jiang ’19, Cindy Kang ’19 and Steven Majewski ’19 worked steadfastly to improve their skills and by the end of the season, all made double-digit improvements in their match score averages and ended their first year with averages over 220.
Seasoned shooters Josh Estrada ’17, Makena Hayes ’17, Josh Nagy ’18, Elliot Ong ’17, Yichen Wang ’16 and Sarah Zimmerman ’17 also made strides in refining their shooting and contributed regularly to the team’s overall success.
The team was full of talented and hardworking student-athletes and great sportsmanship, and this year saw Judy Yin ’19 and co-captain Taryn Washburn ’16 as the recipients for Most Improved Shooter, Rhianna Lichtenthal ’16 as the recipient for the Coaches Award and Nicholas Harris ’17 and co-captain Graham Sell ’16 as the recipients for the Most Valuable Shooter Award.
Lichtenthal was a particularly strong asset to the team, who joined as a nationally-ranked precision shooter. By the end of the season, she finished with outstanding accomplishments, such as 10 top-four finishes in competition — tying for second highest on the team—and first place for the team five times — the most of anyone. Her 260.75 combined average for the season ranked third overall this year and places her sixth in the school’s all-time list. While her talent was certainly valued, she also brought a positive and playful spirit to the range and set an outstanding example to her fellow teammates.
The team’s first- and second-place shooters ended the year with scores separated by the razor-thin difference of 1/100th of a point. Harris and Sell are currently ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, on the school’s all-time list.