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Nation’s top rifle shooters prepare for Olympic trials

Four members of the rifle team will travel to Colorado Springs and try to win a spot on the U.S. Women’s Olympic Air Rifle Team.

The rifle team ended its season Feb. 16, defeating the University of Nevada and securing a spot in the upcoming national championship competition in March. Since this win, sophomores Erin Lorenzen, Emily Paper, Simone Riford and Lauren Sullivan have been preparing for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.

At this year’s trials, there will be 39 shooters competing in women’s air rifle, head coach Karen Monez said.

Competitors at the trials include world-class shooters such as Emily Caruso, a 2004 Olympian, and Jamie Beyerle, the 2007 World Cup USA bronze medalist.

Only one slot is open in the U.S. Women’s Air Rifle Team, which is open to international shooters who qualify as being eligible to play for the U.S. team.

TCU’s representatives, all ranked in the top 50 nationally, said they will have to put forth their best effort to earn a spot.

“It will take good shooting to have a shot at it,” Paper said.

Riford agreed with Paper and said there is no room for error.

“With former Olympians being there and international shooters, it will be intense,” she said.

Riford and Paper posted scores of 590 and 586, respectively, in air rifle this season. Riford is ranked No. 42 in the nation, while Paper is No. 20.

Sullivan is ranked No. 21 in the nation and posted a score of 590 in the air rifle this month.

“A lot of shooters only go if they think they have a real shot,” Sullivan said. “So it weeds out a lot of the younger shooters and up-and-coming shooters.”

The trials last for three days and competitors can compete in all of them, but the rules differ from the NCAA’s, where men and women can compete against one another. The trials are separated by gender, and competitors do not get as many shots.

“During the season you get 60 shots,” Lorenzen said. “At the trials we will only have 40 shots.”

Lorenzen is ranked No. 10 in the nation with a score of 97.29 percent after 300 shots in air rifle. She also led the team in average for air rifle this season.

The critical part of the competition is at the end of each day, when shooters with the top scores will compete in an additional round.

“After the first 40 shots, the top-eight shooters will get to compete in an additional round,” Monez said. “The eight shooters only get 10 shots in this additional round.”

In preparation for the trials, Monez has had the four practice on air rifle under Olympic trial rules.

“We have focused on shooting in the style that they will have to use when they get there,” Monez said. “I have also had them practice the 10-shot round as well. You never know.”

Monez competed in the same trials en route to a 1979 gold medal at the world championships in Seoul, Korea.

“I told them to take it one day at a time, and its three days of intense competition,” she said. “You can’t control the competitors – you can only control your score – just go out and give it your best effort. If somebody scores better then they just out-performed you that day, and that’s OK.”

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