Bears Set Record in Smallbore

Hunter Blankenship
Hunter Blankenship

WEST POINT, N.Y. -- Coast Guard was back in the thick of the action less than a week after returning from winter leave. A three-day trip to West Point saw the Bears go head to head with University of Kentucky, ranked number three in the nation, 11th ranked North Carolina State, and 12th ranked Army.

Rust was apparent here and there on the first day against Kentucky and Army. The Bears posted a 2239 in smallbore led by junior Randall Ford who posted a 569, the tenth highest score over all in a pack of All-American candidates. Freshman stepped up with Seth Strayer shooting a 560 and classmate Hunter Blankenship right on his heels with a 559, a personal best for the first year rifleman. Grayson Wheeler, rounded out the team with a 551.

In air rifle competition, the Bears fired a 2267 with Strayer anchoring the team with a 574. In a repeat of the smallbore finish Blankenship chased Strayer with his second personal best of the day, a 571. Wheeler put up a 564 with Ford edging out classmate Jacob Dupree 558 to 557 for the final scoring spot. The Coast Guard effort of 4506 was not enough to defeat the two DI schools. 

Day two saw Coast Guard come up against Kentucky and North Carolina State. Building on the previous day the Bears made progress, increasing their air rifle performance by scoring a 2275, led by Stayer's 572. Ford and Wheeler both shot 568s and Blankenship rounded out the team with a 567.

Ford again anchored the team's smallbore effort with a 568, moving up one place in overall smallbore standings to ninth overall, with Wheeler close on his heels with a 566. Blankenship posted a 555 followed by Strayer's 551 to give the team a 2240.

In spite of shooting its second best score of the season, 4515, the Bears could not overcome the Wildcats and Wolfpack.

The third day of competition was the charm, as the Bears faced Army and North Carolina. Coast Guard came out of the starting gate strong and were within three points of Army after the kneeling stage. The Bears closed the gap to one point after prone but faded in standing, losing smallbore to the Black Knights 2292 to 2254.

The loss was softened by the fact that the 2254 marked the second time this season that the Academy record in this event has been eclipsed. A trio of freshmen led the record-breaking performance with Blankenship's 571, his second personal best in two days, closely followed by Strayer who posted a personal best of 570. Wheeler edged out Ford, 562 to 561 to complete the scoring four. Blankenship also placed seventh overall in smallbore.

Strayer continued strong in air rifle where he shot yet another personal best of 580. Wheeler and Blankenship supported him with a 564 and 562 respectively as Ford's 551 gave the team a 2257.

Coast Guard, now 3-10 overall and undefeated in conference, competes next weekend against Texas Christian University, The Ohio State University, and Air Force Academy, at TCU.