GHSA Air Rifle Competitors Move Up to NCAA Rifle Competition

(data through SY 2020-21)

The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) has sanctioned international style rifle competition as a high school sport for many years. It sanctioned and had championships in .22 caliber from 1944-1955 and from 1964-1994. Rifle participation was decreasing. One reason is that schools were being built without the more expensive ranges which included exhaust systems that met newer government standards for removal of lead from the air. GHSA made the decision to add Three Position Air Rifle to its sanctioned activities beginning in school year 1991-1992. More schools then established program; ranges are smaller, no heavy bullet backstops needed and air rifle does not cause lead in air hazards. This gave more students the opportunity to compete in a high school environment. It began with 22 schools competing and has grown considerably. One hundred and thirty-three schools entered in 2020-2021 but unfortunately 31 of them withdrew because of COVID-19.

The GHSA .22 caliber competition was eliminated beginning in SY 94-95 because of low participation. Some people thought this might stop GHSA student athletes from being able to compete in NCAA competitions because of no experience in .22 caliber. Each competitor in NCAA competitions fires in both three position .22 caliber and in standing air rifle position. This did not stop GHSA athletes and many have competed. Most GHSA competitors began with no prior experience in the sport and learned it in air rifle at school. Some of them did gain outside experience with .22 caliber while in high school but many did not.

The student athletes have transitioned well from GHSA three position air rifle to the NCAA competitions. Rifle teams are small with only five competitors and no substitutions during a competition. It has been verified from records that 96 former GHSA three-position air riflery competitors have competed in NCAA competitions (46 females and 50 males). Of the 96, 17 have competed at military service academies, 29 at other out of state universities, 48 at Georgia universities and two who competed both out of state and then in Georgia. Only two universities in Georgia compete in NCAA rifle competitions, the University of North Georgia and Georgia Southern University.

  • Sixteen have earned a total of 44 All-American honors with more of these honors earned in .22 caliber than in air rifle.
  • One was 2005 NCAA Individual Champion and another set a NCAA championship record in 2019.
  • One was the first to be approved to compete in NCAA rifle as a disabled athlete.
  • One was selected for the US National Team and nine to the National Development Team and another went on to compete internationally for the US Army Marksmanship Unit.
  • Four have served as assistant rifle coaches and one as head coach at five universities.
  • The first GHSA air rifle competitor to move up to compete in NCAA rifle competition was in

SY 1993-94. He was the first athlete to be a “Blue Chip” for the sport at the US Air Force Academy.

The above information is impressive but there have been many skilled GHSA riflery competitors who chose not to compete in the NCAA. It is interesting to note that of the 96 who chose to compete in the NCAA only 27 were GHSA championship medalists (28.1%). The 27 earned a total of 37 GHSA medals (17 gold, 9 silver & 11 bronze).

The CEO of USA Shooting (National Governing Body for Olympic Shooting Sports) wrote to GHSA “It is without question, that Georgia has the best youth shooting education and competition program in the country.” I personally believe that the major factor is GHSA treats riflery and governs it as other sports with schools against schools including regular season competitions home and away. It is not an occasional day at a shooting range for the youth.

Larry Pendergrass

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