For many students, Sunday mornings are a time for rest and recuperation. The 15 members of the Michigan club sports rifle team, on the other hand, are awake bright and early for target practice at the Jackson County Sportsman Club’s rifle range in Jackson from 9 a.m. to noon. Some have been competitively shooting since they were six years old, and others had never picked up a gun before they came to college. Either way, these three-hour practices prepare the co-ed teammates for matches in the two leagues in which they competitively shoot.

In both leagues, the competition is run the same way. The Wolverines send their top five shooters and each of them takes 40 shots with a .22-caliber International Freestyle rifle in each of three positions. In prone position, shots are taken while lying on the ground. In offhand position, the shooter fires while standing up. The final position is kneeling. Dead center in the target is worth 10 points, and each ring outside the center is worth one less point. The shooter’s scores from the three positions are then aggregated to determine the individual winner, and the overall scores of each shooter are aggregated to decide the winning team.

The Michigan ROTC League consists of major schools in Michigan, including Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Howe Military Academy. In this league, the Wolverines have been undefeated for more than 17 years.

The second league is the Western Intercollegiate Rifle Conference, which is made up of schools from many states, including Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

“WIRC is the more competitive league,” said Matt Wolterstorff, one of the Club Rifle Team’s top shooters. “It’s made up of some real Varsity NCAA teams from schools like OSU (Ohio State), where people are recruited and on scholarship. They have their own ranges and more practice time, which makes it hard for a club team like us to compete at their level.”

The University’s on-campus rifle range, which was located by North Hall, was torn down three years ago to make room for the new Life Sciences Building.

The club rifle team protested the dismantling, and several designs were looked into that would have preserved the range. However, because marksmanship was cut from the ROTC programming, it was decided that there was no need to preserve the range. Since then, the team has had to travel to Jackson for practice.

Still, over Spring Break, the Club Rifle Team managed to place sixth in a field of 11 at the WIRC Championship, which was hosted by Ohio State in Columbus.

“OSU wins all the time,” Matt said. “It’s frustrating to compete against teams with their own facilities and a lot of university funding. We’re the little guys in that league. But we’ve still got a broad spectrum of talent on our team.”

The club rifle team’s next competition is during the first weekend in April, and will be hosted by Eastern Michigan.


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