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Last year at the NCAA championships an all women’s rifle team from TCU took down an all men’s team from Fairbanks Alaska. By outgunning the favored Alaskan team and winning the national championship, the five ladies from Texas proved to the world that girls can shoot — often times a lot better than the boys. Photo: TCU
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Rifle is a unique sport in many ways, and perhaps the most obvious is that men compete alongside women. Some college teams have co-ed squads while others have only women (this is mostly to comply with Title IX rules). And recently, the women have been shooting as well, if not better, than the men. Photo: Kentucky
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College rifle includes two different competitions: the air rifle and the smallbore. Smallbore (.22 caliber rifle) is shot from 50 feet and the air rifle competition is shot from 33 feet. The competitors use open sites and to earn a full ten points on their shot they must hit a mark that is about the same size as the period at the end of this sentence. Photo: TCU
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In small bore, each athlete gets two hours to shoot 60 rounds from three different positions: standing, kneeling and prone. In the air rifle competition each athlete takes 40 shots from the standing position. Photo: Nebraska
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Since the rifles are small calibers, the male athletes’ typical advantage of being bigger and stronger is taken away. Photo: Kentucky
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Out of the top 16 shooters at the NCAA championships last year, 12 of them were women. Photo: Nebraska
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Many people have theories about whether women are actually better at shooting and why that might be true, but no one really knows for sure. Photo: Nebraska
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Head Coach Karen Monez has been at TCU for seven seasons and last year was her first national championship win. Her team took down the co-ed Alaska Fairbanks team which has won the NCAA championship 8 times since 2000. Photo: TCU
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Monez says that the key to winning in rifle is dedication and focus. This photo was taken when TCU visited the capitol after winning the national championship. Photo: TCU
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“In this sport everyone is equal,” Monez says. “It’s all about muscle memory … It’s set apart from other sports because [in rifle] you have to stand perfectly still.” Photo: TCU
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Nebraska Cornhuskers senior Ryann McGough has been shooting competitively since she was 13. She’s shot with men and women for years, but she’s not sure the idea that women are better shooters is true. Photo: Nebraska
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“The myth going around the shooting community is that women are better than men, but I don’t know if that’s true,” she says. Photo: Nebraska
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Aside from rifle, McGough has also played basketball and volleyball. There’s a huge difference in mentality when it comes to shooting she says. “Rifle competitions are incredibly nerve-wracking … In most sports you can channel your adrenaline and use it to run faster or jump higher,” she says. “In shooting you need to calm yourself and get that heart rate as low as possible.” Photo: Nebraska
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McGough’s explanation hints at one possible reason women outperform men on the rifle range. A study published in 2007 by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that men react differently under pressure (like when you’re competing for an NCAA championship) than women do. The study found that when under pressure, men tend to have a more physical reaction and women tend to have a more emotional reaction. Photo: Nebraska
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This physical reaction can make it tougher for male athletes, when precise movement, or no movement at all, is called for like in shooting. Photo: Nebraska
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Katie Fretts has been shooting and hunting ever since her grandparents took her to a turkey hunting convention when she was 10 years old. She now shoots for Kentucky, which has a co-ed rifle team. Photo: Kentucky
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“Shooting is an all mental sport,” says Fretts, who was rookie of the year last season. “[Experience] has put me in a place where I know what I need to do to shoot a good score.” Photo: Kentucky
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The Kentucky team, like most college teams, spends about two hours a day at the range five days a week and then works on cardio and strength training in the gym. Photo: Kentucky
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Colleen Tillson, a senior at Ole Miss, said rifle is growing in popularity among women because there are now more opportunities to shoot at the college level. Photo: Ole Miss
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But even though the sport is growing, many college students still don’t know much about it. Part of the reason is because colleges don’t publicize rifle as much as they do other sports, Tillson says. Photo: Ole Miss
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“Our school doesn’t publicize the sport too well … they’re worried about scaring people,” Tillson says. “But once people hear about it, they think its like the coolest thing ever.” Photo: Ole Miss
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For most schools the rifle season is now underway. To find out more about rifle click here. Photo: Ole Miss
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