By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
With the final shooters nearing the end of their relay, Garrett Spurgeon was like most everyone else gathered inside Ohio State University's French Field House for the NCAA rifle championships.
He was adding up the scores.
"Everybody was figuring it up on notepads and calculators," Spurgeon said.
They came to the same conclusion.
The title was heading home to West Virginia.
"Word started spreading," said Spurgeon, a freshman from Canton, Mo., who was one of six shooters competing for the Mountaineers in the national tournament earlier this month. "We all started smiling and getting excited. We were trying to keep quiet because there were still shooters on the line."
Once the final shot was taken, the celebration began, and it lasted until the Mountaineers made it back to Morgantown, W.Va.
That's when Spurgeon received an unexpected thrill.
The West Virginia women's gymnastics team had a home meet scheduled shortly days after the NCAA rifle championships ended, and the school decided to introduce the rifle team before the meet. Spurgeon, the only freshman to compete for West Virginia at the NCAAs, carried the championship trophy into the arena.
"It was special," Spurgeon said. "Knowing we worked so hard all year for this made it incredible."
The NCAA title was the 15th for the West Virginia rifle team and its first since 2009. It took a stellar effort in the air rifle portion of the event to win it.
After the smallbore portion of the event, the Mountaineers were third with a score of 2,316, although that was just one point behind TCU. Spurgeon shot a 576 out of 600, tying for 16th individually.
West Virginia came back to shoot 2,363 in the air rifle for a 4,679 total -- the second-highest score in the history of the NCAA championships.
Yet, Spurgeon knows it is hardly the best the Mountaineers can do.
"After the first day, we were 30 points below our best score of the year," said Spurgeon, who shot a 589 in the air rifle. "Every team's scores were like that."
There is a simple explanation for that.
"It was unlike anything I've ever been a part of," Spurgeon said. "It's intense. It's tough to stay focused."
During the air rifle portion, Spurgeon admitted to coming off the firing line several times to talk to his coach to regain his focus.
There was nothing particularly important he needed to hear, but the minute or two break from the pressure relaxed him.
"I can't necessarily say we talked about shooting," Spurgeon said. "I joked with him a little bit. It's what I needed."
So was that trophy.
"That's one of the big goals I wanted when I came here," Spurgeon said.
With that accomplished, he knows bigger goals lie ahead.