A force to be reckoned with: Nanook Rifle Team at top of their game

Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star Reporter
Oct. 25, 2011

UAF Junior, Scott Franz, a majoring in Mechanical Engineering, takes aim and calms himself before pulling the trigger at the Patty Center Rifle Range on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star

In the basement of the Patty Center, loud pops rang out, but that was the only sound. Late Thursday afternoon on Oct. 20, young men and women lined up and sight in their guns, at the UAF rifle range for one of their weekly practices under the instruction of Coach Dan Jordan. While other teams get pumped and excited by cheering and adrenalin, in this sport, silence and focus are vital.

“Controlling your breathing is the key,” Mats Eriksson said, as he adjusted the site on the rifle. “We can change it from right to left, but up and down is up to the shooter and the slightest movement can throw your aim completely off.”

So far the rifle team has competed in three matches, all outside of Alaska. These were the tournament in Oxford, Missouri against the Ole Miss rifle team, the tournament in Martin, Tennessee, against the Martin, Tennessee University team, and the tournament in Murray, Kentucky, against Murray State University. The UAF team won two out of these three matches, only losing to Ole Miss by three points with a score of 4645 to Ole Miss’ 4648. The team swept the competition in Martin, Tennessee, winning by 87 points, and continued their impressive performance at Murray State University, winning 4631 – 4628. There next competition will be held on Oct. 29, in El Paso, Texas. 

“It’s definitely a mental game, as well as physical” Dan Jordan said as he sat in the range watching his team shoot.

Over the past 20 years, the UAF Men and Women’s Rifle team claimed many titles. The team brought home first place 10 times at the NCAA National Rifle Championship starting in 1994, winning the other nine out of the past 12 championships since 1999. The team also finished as runner-up four times. As well as being very successful at the NCAA Championship competitions, UAF team members have also received many individual awards. Eight shooters have won a total of 15 National Championship titles since 1988, and in the same length of time, 57 Alaska shooters have taken home 175 All-American honors awards from many other competitions. These titles over the years have made UAF one of those prestigious college rifle programs in the nation.

UAF Junior, Scott Franz, a Mechanical Engineering major, shoots in the standing position in the Patty Center Rifle Range on the afternoon of Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011. Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star

This will be Jordan’s seventh year coaching. Over the years the team has done well, starting off winning the NCAA Championship Jordan’s first year coach, and continuing their victories since then. Jordan was named the Alaska Athletic Department’s Coach of the year in both 2006 and 2007, as well as being awarded the NCAA Rifle Coach of the Year, three consecutive years in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Starting his hobby and eventual career at the age of 9, Jordan was involved in rifle throughout his life before he attended UAF and shot on the team for two years before being delayed by a serious rock climbing accident between his sophomore and junior years in college.

“I absolutely love it,” Jordan said, smiling at his team as they practiced. “It’s definitely my dream job,” Jordan said. “I hope to continue coaching as long as I have the drive for the team to do well.”

This year the team has nine members, four are incoming freshman. The team includes students from all over the US and countries such as Poland, Sweden, and Norway.

Five members remain from last years team of 13. These are Cole Bures, an  electrical engineering  junior, Scott Franz, a mechanical engineering junior, Anna Hjelmevoll of Norway, a sophomore studying political science, Michael Liuzza, a sophomore in business administration, and Julia Redzia of Poland, a sophomore studying petroleum engineering.

There are also four new members of the time, all incoming freshman. These are Ryan Anderson, a biology freshman, Mats Eriksson, a freshman from Sweden studying business management, Donal Hannan, a freshman studying fisheries, and Robert Williams, the only member originally from Fairbanks, a freshman studying biology.

“There has been a huge turn over on the team this year,  seven members graduated last year and we got four new freshman,” Jordan said. “But, I have a really good feeling about this team. There is a lot of potential.”

During this season, which will continue until March, the rifle team will travel  to many competitions around  Alaska and the country in preparation for their final competition of the year at the NCAA Championship. The tournament will be held in March of 2012 where  the team will work to uphold UAF’s place as one of the top rifle programs in the US.

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