GHSA Air Rifle Competitors Move Up to NCAA Rifle Competition

(Data is through SY 2022-2023)

Rifle is a varsity coed sport in the NCAA and GHSA where males and females compete against each other. Competing schools are not divided by size like in other sports. Both NCAA and GHSA use five competitors on a team with the best four scores counting as team scores and both have team and individual qualifiers for their large championships.

In NCAA competitors shoot both air rifle and smallbore (.22 caliber) for a total of 120 shots. In air rifle they shoot 60 shots in standing position from 10 meters. In smallbore they shoot 60 shots (20 in each of three positions; kneeling, prone, standing) from 50 feet. In GHSA competitors shoot three position air rifle for a total of 30 shots 10 in each of the three positions from 10 meters.

Even with these differences a large number of GHSA competitors have transitioned well from GHSA three-position air rifle to the NCAA competitions. Verified from NCAA records 107 former GHSA competitors have competed in the NCAA, 53 females and 54 males. Of the 107, 17 have competed at military service academies, one who competed at both service academy and out of state, 33 at other out of state universities, 54 at Georgia universities and 2 who competed both out of state and in Georgia. Only two Georgia universities compete in NCAA rifle, University of North Georgia and Georgia Southern University.

The 107 competitors have earned a total of 45 All-American honors (not including Academic All-American awards) and more of these awards have been in smallbore than in air rifle. One was a NCAA individual champion and another set a NCAA championship score record. Interesting that these 107 may not have been the best that have competed in GHSA. Most of them did not medal at a GHSA championship. Of the 107 only 27 of them medaled at a GHSA championship, they earned a total of 37 GHSA championship awards (17 gold, 9 silver, 11 bronze)

GHSA made the decision to begin air riflery competition in school year 1991-92 with 22 school competing. The program has grown considerably and over 100 schools have competed for many years even after Covid caused some to leave. Basically, home and away competitions are held like in many other sports. The 30 total shots in competitions have been used to shorten time because some ranges are small and require more relays and many competitions require travel on school nights.

GHSA used to sanction smallbore. Why not now? The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) sanctioned international style rifle competition as a high school sport for many years. It had championships in .22 caliber from 1944-1955 and from 1964-1994 but participation was decreasing. One reason is that schools were being built without the needed 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 could then establish programs with less costs: ranges are smaller (10 meters not 50 feet) and could be in other school rooms if there is no range, the heavier bullet backstops are not needed and air rifle does not cause lead in air hazards. This gave more students the opportunity to compete in a high school environment.

Some people thought that the GHSA elimination of smallbore might stop GHSA student athletes from being able to compete in NCAA competitions but obviously, this proved wrong. Most GHSA competitors began with no prior experience in the sport and learned it in air rifle at school. Some of them did gain some experience with .22 caliber outside the schools but most did not.

Larry Pendergrass

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