LEXINGTON, Va. – Coming off a strong performance at the Southern Conference Championships, the 2016-17 men’s and women’s rifle teams continued to progress and show upward momentum under 4th-year head coach Bill Bither.
The men’s team placed second with 4513 points at the SoCon Championships, an event that was restored to the league for the first time since 1985. The women’s team also performed well at the event and came in fifth place with 4404 points in the final standings.
Senior Andrew Hickey and freshman William Davidson led the way on the first day of the league championship as the duo earned all-conference honors with top-eight finishes in the smallbore competition. On the second day, Hickey, freshman Hunter Jacob and women’s rifle junior Samantha Alexander placed in the top eight of the air rifle competition to earn all-conference honors.
Hickey capped a spectacular VMI career by earning first team All-SoCon honors in both the smallbore and air rifle competitions at the league championship. The Silver Springs, Maryland, native won the individual air rifle title with a career-best score of 582 for the event, shooting a 244.8 in the final to top North Georgia’ Andrew Abernathy’s 238.8 points. He earned first team honors in the smallbore by placing fourth overall in the competition. Following the rifle season, Hickey earned multiple Institute awards, including the Intercollegiate Sports Award given for all-around excellence in NCAA competition. For a second straight year he was rewarded the Institute’s General Withers A. Burress Award for skill in rifle marksmanship.
Davidson earned second team All-SoCon honors in the smallbore after placing eighth in the finals at the league championship with a season-best 562 for the event. Two weeks before at the NCAA Qualifier against Wofford he shot a 561 smallbore tally to build momentum for the league competition.
Fellow freshman Hunter Jacob placed third overall in the air rifle at the SoCon Championships to earn first team All-SoCon honors, tying his second-best air rifle score of 579 to make the cut on the first team. He earned a season-best air rifle score of 581 on Nov. 12 to conclude the fall season, and in the smallbore shot a season-best score of 550 at The Citadel on Jan. 28.
Samantha Alexander paced the women’s team throughout the year and concluded her junior campaign with second team All-SoCon honors in the air rifle by placing eighth in the finals at the league championship in March. To earn all-conference accolades, the Shacklefords, Virginia, native shot a career-best air rifle tally of 576, just two weeks removed from registering a 574 at the NCAA Qualifier against Wofford on Feb. 18. In the smallbore, Alexander shot a career-best 559 on Nov. 5 to conclude the fall season. Like Hickey, she was awarded the Institute’s General Withers A. Burress Award for a second straight year for skill in rifle marksmanship. An excellent student, she was also named a Dean’s List recipient and named to the Cadet-Athlete Honors Society.
Junior Katherine Watson also had a strong year for the women’s team, shooting career bests in both the smallbore (548) and air rifle (567, twice) during the season. A CRCA Scholar All-American, she shot her second-best air rifle score for the year on both October 1 and again on March 5 at the SoCon Championships. A top-notch student, she was also named a Dean's List recipient and recognized as a member of the Cadet-Athlete Honors Society.