Columbus State Named Site of 2011 NCAA Rifle Championships

Jonathan Hall competes at a match last fall.COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University’s inaugural rifle season garnered wide attention in 2010 when shooter Jonathan Hall won the NCAA individual national championship.

The program now will gain attention on a much bigger scale.

The NCAA has awarded hosting rights for the 2011 NCAA National Rifle Championship to Columbus State University. The March 9-12, 2011 event will be held jointly at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning and at the Frank G. Lumpkin Jr. Center on Columbus State's main campus, with the small-bore competition at USAMU and the air-rifle competition at the Lumpkin Center.

“We are thrilled to award Columbus State University the opportunity to host the 2011 Men’s and Women’s National Rifle Championship,” said Newt Engle, head rifle coach at Akron University and chair of the NCAA Rifle Committee.

“Coming to the home of the Cougars and partnering with the world famous U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit promises to bring us one of the most exciting and eventful NCAA Championships ever. Every member of the NCAA Rifle Committee is thankful to Columbus State University for their willingness to host this significant event in the lives of our nation’s premier rifle athletes,” he added.

This is the second time that Columbus State University has hosted a team national championship event (Division II Golf Championship, 1987) and the first time that Fort Benning and the Army Marksmanship Unit have hosted an NCAA Championship.

“We heard the NCAA was looking for a host for this championship for 2011 and it really caught our attention,” said Jay Sparks, CSU Athletic Director. “We weren’t sure if they would seriously entertain a bid from an upstart program like ours, but thought it could be a great way to gain national attention for our university, our rifle program, the Columbus community, and for Fort Benning.”

“We feel as if we have won a lottery with being chosen to host this event,” Sparks added.

Sparks, head rifle coach Mike Greene, USAMU’s Sergeant Michael Moore and assistant AD Mike Peacock began researching the event and what it would take to host. CSU President Dr. Tim Mescon was fully in support of the effort, and Greene worked with Fort Benning officials – even meeting with Lieutenant General Benjamin Freakley on a visit to Fort Benning in the early spring. Freakley is the Commanding General of the U.S. Arm Accessions Command – the unit in charge of the Army’s recruiting efforts.

That meeting solidified the Army’s support and partnership for the championship.

“If it were not for the U.S. Army and the Army Marksmanship Unit, we would not have this opportunity to host this event,” said Greene. “The Army is planning to make this a great event with some great opportunities for the participants. It is a great opportunity to showcase our university, our city, and the outstanding facilities at Fort Benning.”

Mescon echoed those sentiments.

“The exceptional partnership between Columbus State University and Fort Benning creates truly world-class venues for the 2011 NCAA Rifle Championship. We have already benefited from the alliance with the Army Marksmanship Unit and look forward to building on the success of our nationally-ranked rifle team.”

The USAMU complex is one of the top competitive shooting venues in the world, having hosted numerous competitions in all aspects of shooting from shotgun to rifle to pistol at the local, regional, national, and international levels.

“We are extremely happy and excited to co-host this great event with Columbus State University,” said Capt. Howard Rice of USAMU. “We appreciate this opportunity and feel like it is a great opportunity to showcase the Army and also to promote shooting as a sport.”

“We plan to make this a great event for the participants and will have Army Experience Day on March 9 where the participants will get to experience first-hand some of the training and experiences of soldiers, including Striker vehicle rides, jumps on the Ranger jump towers, and live fire exercises. We are looking forward to making this a great experience for the competitors,” Rice said.

CSU did not qualify for the 2010 championship as a team, but Hall (photo, above, in meet last fall) competed as an individual and brought home a national title in the school’s first season of competition.

“Jon Hall’s championship was a good motivator for our team, but to have the championship come here to our home is even more motivation for our team to raise the bar and qualify this year. This will be an unforgettable experience for all of us,” said Greene.

The week will include the small-bore competition on Friday, March 11, at USAMU’s Poole Complex, and then the air rifle competition on Saturday, March 12, in the Lumpkin Center Arena. Team and individual national champions will be crowned on each day.