2002-03 Season Review

The Nebraska rifle team continued to rank among the top teams in the nation in 2003, as the Huskers capped the season with a third-place finish at the NCAA Qualifier Meet.

The Huskers returned five shooters in 2002-03 under first-year head coach and Olympic Gold Medalist Launi Meili, and despite a tough schedule, looked to gain a berth at the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2001.

Nebraska opened the season by setting a new range record in its season-opening match against Air Force, downing the Falcons 6,153-6,073. Senior All-American Amanda Trujillo set a then-personal best and tied the range record in winning the air rifle with a 393 and finished runner-up (1,161) to sophomore Alicia Sawyer in the smallbore. Sawyer won with a 1,163, two points better than Trujillo. Junior Melissa Downsbrough finished third in both events (385 in air rifle and 1,157 in smallbore) helping the Huskers to the victory.

The Huskers traveled to Ohio for a pair of matches. At the Buckeye Invitational, Nebraska finished fourth in the team competition behind Army, Ohio State and Green Mountain. Trujillo captured the individual title in the air rifle, firing a 394 and setting a new personal best. Downsbrough was the only other Husker to place in the top 10 in the air rifle, taking home ninth (386). In the smallbore, Sawyer paced the Huskers by taking fifth (1,160), while Trujillo finished just behind her at sixth (1,155).

Continuing a busy weekend of competition, the Huskers faced off against Penn State and Akron and downed both teams, as NU defeated the Nittany Lions, 3,819-3,455 and knocked off the Zips, 3,819-3,812. Sawyer was the star for the Huskers, as she won the air rifle with a 390 and finished second in the smallbore with a 576. Trujillo placed second in both events with a 389 in the air rifle and a 570 in the smallbore.

Alicia Sawyer was among the team leaders in both smallbore and air rifle in 2002-03. She had a total of 10 top-five finishes, including a first-place finish in smallbore against Air Force and a first-place showing in air rifle against Akron and Penn State.

The Huskers extended their winning streak to six straight matches with a 6,132-6,061 win over UMKC on Nov. 23. Downsbrough captured the title in the air rifle with a 391. She also tied with UMKC’s Calee Courter for the smallbore title with a 1,164, while earning a perfect score of 400 from the prone position. Trujillo finished second in the air rifle and fourth in the smallbore.

The Huskers then traveled to Morgantown, W.Va., to take on the Mountaineers. Despite a win from Trujillo in the smallbore (1,177) the Huskers fell to the Mountaineers, 6,203-6,126. It marked the first time since a 6,215-6,120 setback to Alaska-Fairbanks on Jan. 11, 2002, that the Huskers had lost a dual match. Downsbrough finished in a three-way tie for third in the smallbore with a 1,166 and also finished in a three-way tie for second in the air rifle with a 386.

Nebraska opened the new year in El Paso, Texas, squaring off with Texas-El Paso and defending national champion Alaska-Fairbanks on Jan. 10. In the match it was all Nanooks, as the defending national champions dominated the meet, handing the Huskers a 4,718-4,602 loss in the smallbore and 1,555-1,530 setback in the air rifle. Despite the loss, Downsbrough shot a season-best 394 in the air rifle to finish second, while she was also NU’s top competitor in the smallbore, firing a 1,171. Trujillo finished sixth in both events, firing a 387 and a 1,168, respectively.

The same three teams competed a second time the following day, and again Alaska-Fairbanks won the meet. Trujillo was the top competitor for the Huskers, firing a 390 in the air rifle and a 1,163 in the smallbore for a pair of top-seven finishes. Downsbrough also continued to shoot well, finishing fifth in the smallbore and sixth in the air rifle.

The Huskers recorded a sixth-place finish at the Roger Withrow Invitational in Murray, Ky., finishing with a team score of 5,986. Tennessee Tech won the team competition (6,179), while Murray State (6,157) and Jacksonville State (6,149) rounded out the top three teams in the multi-day competition. Trujillo placed fourth overall after taking fourth in the smallbore with a 1,164 and tying for sixth in the air rifle with a 389. Sophomore Laura Johnson also earned a top-20 individual finish, placing 16th overall with a score of 1,506, highlighted by a 15th-place showing in air rifle (384).

Nebraska returned to its winning ways against Air Force on Feb. 7, recording a 3,843-3,782 win against the Falcons in a tuneup for the NCAA Qualifier. It marked the second time that Nebraska had downed Air Force in 2002-03. Trujillo and Downsbrough each fired a 390 to tie for first in the air rifle, and Trujillo took second in the smallbore with a score of 581.

The following day, the Huskers looked to claim a national championship berth at the NCAA Qualifier Meet in El Paso, Texas. Nebraska finished third in the competition, just missing out on a berth in the NCAA Championships with a team score of 6,089. UTEP won the qualifier with a score of 6,120 while Air Force took second with 6,108 points. Trujillo took home the title in the smallbore with a score of 1,161, and tied for third in the air rifle (389). Sawyer tied for fifth in the smallbore with a 1,152, while Downsbrough recorded a pair of top-10 finishes, placing eighth in the air rifle and 10th in the smallbore. Johnson also captured a top-10 finish, placing seventh in the air rifle (384).

The Huskers wrapped up the season by sweeping a pair of matches against San Francisco and Nevada in Honolulu, Hawaii. The Huskers won the competition with a team total of 3,055, besting the Wolfpack (3,052) and the Dons (2,902). The teams only competed in two rounds of air rifle. The Huskers dominated the outdoor meet with Trujillo winning the air rifle (773), while Downsbrough (770) and Sawyer (766) took second and third, respectively. Aspden finished seventh (759) and Johnson placed eighth (757) to round out the scoring for the Huskers, who finished the campaign on a strong note.

With a strong showing at the NCAA Qualifier Meet and another year of work under Meili, the Huskers will make a strong bid to return to the NCAA Championships in 2004.