University of Memphis junior Leighton Dempster and sophomore Levi Clark competed at the 2018 NCAA Championships over spring break. Dempster competed in the air rifle discipline, and Clark participated in the smallbore discipline. The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, hosted the two NCAA events.
Dempster shot a 587 at the championships and finished 29th overall. She was just shy of her season average of 589. A mere nine points separated Dempster from the first-place air rifle score.
Dempster is the first Tiger to shoot as an individual in the air rifle discipline at the NCAA Championships since current head coach Dan Hermsmeier did so in 2011. Former Tiger Beth Tidmore claimed the air rifle championship in 2005.
Clark shot a career-best 585 and advanced to the final round in the smallbore discipline. The Clackamas, Oregon native finished with a score of 408.1 and placed sixth in the nation at the 2018 NCAA Rifle Championships.
Clark’s performance at this year’s championships is the best by a Tiger since Beth Lee advanced to the final in smallbore at the 2014 NCAA Championships and finished sixth. Hermsmeier placed fifth in the smallbore discipline at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
“Levi shot a fantastic match today,” Hermsmeier said. “We discussed controlling nerves and expectations before he started, and his efforts were apparent in his performance. It was great for him to have a career-best smallbore score, especially under the intense pressure of this match. His teammates and coaches could not be more proud of him.”
The two shooters posted career-high scores during the season on their way to the NCAA Championships.
Dempster recorded a career-best 593 in the air rifle discipline three times this season. She shot 591 or higher on eight separate occasions in the 2017-18 season. Dempster also won the NCAA Sectional Qualifier to qualify for the championships with a career-high 1172 aggregate (579-593).
In his second year as a member of the rifle team, Clark made a statement. Clark tied his career-high score in the smallbore discipline (585) at the start of the season against TCU. Prior to the NCAA Championships, the sophomore nearly won the NCAA Sectional Qualifier but was beat out by one point by teammate Dempster.
As a whole, the Tigers had a successful 2017-18 campaign. The team got into a rhythm after posting their highest aggregate of the season (4663) against TCU on Oct. 28 and rose to eighth in the national polls.
After the winter break, the team came back ready for competition. They finished the regular season by posting four of their top-five aggregate scores in the final four matches of the regular season.
The rifle team’s season concluded with the NCAA Championships. The Tigers ended their campaign ranked 16th in the nation.
Three team members, Haylea Broughton, Makennon Doran and Eli Rischling, are set to graduate in May. The Tigers will return six of their current team members for the 2018-19 season.
Leighton Dempster holds her rifle. The junior is one of three upperclassmen on the 2017-18 roster
The Memphis Tiger Rifle team posted a fourth-place finish at the 2018 Winthrow Invitational. The Tigers spent the fall at their new facilitates, but this is the first spring season for the new Memphis Rifle Facility.