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Memphis rifle hosts conference tournament for the first time

<p>Levi Clark crouches for picture. Clark is the only senior and led the team to his last GARC Championship.</p>
Levi Clark crouches for picture. Clark is the only senior and led the team to his last GARC Championship.

For the first time in their history, the Tigers earned the chance to host the 2020 Great America Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships in Memphis, which will conclude the rifle team's season.

Coach Dan Hermsmeier said he wants to get as much of the opportunity he can out of the upcoming weekend.

"My goal is just to put on a successful championship and show fans and spectators and other people who may not know we even have a team that we are," Hermsmeier said. "We are a big part of the athletic department and we have some amazing student athletes."

There are nine teams in the GARC, including the UofM. The other programs are Army West Point, Akron, Kentucky, Navy, North Carolina State, Nebraska, Ole Miss and West Virginia. Memphis has competed against all of them at least once. The Tigers did not beat Kentucky, Akron, Navy, Army or West Virginia, but they did win against Nebraska and is 1-1 with both North Carolina State and Ole Miss. 

Memphis received the opportunity to host the event and compete with the other programs in their conference. Hermsmeier said he knows it will be another big test and it is his goal to keep the athletes' mindset on task and show them it is just another match. 

"I really just want to be able to kind of show the public for the first time that we can put on a really successful event championship and hopefully bring home a title," Hermsmeier said. 

The Memphis rifle team managed a season stacked with optimal opposition. The Tigers performed competed against 14 different programs, and all of them were ranked at least once when Memphis competed against them. Hermsmeier said he would not give his time or work for any other program in the country. 

"When I got here, I wanted to build a program up into something It's never been before," Hermsmeier said. "I really do kind of owe everything to this program and turn it into something that people around campus and around the city will start to kind of see what we're all about."

The Tigers outperformed eight programs this season at least once. Memphis beat three programs twice; Murray State, Jacksonville State and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Tigers beat the University of Martin three times throughout the season.

Every time Memphis beat a ranked team their opposition held an average ranking of 14.09. The highest ranked team the Tigers beat was No. 5 Ole Miss. The lowest ranked team Memphis beat was No. 21 UAB. UAB and UT Martin competed against the Tigers unranked once and lost. 

Memphis has placed behind another team nine times to eight teams, with  Kentucky able to beat the Tigers twice. Every time the UofM was outperformed, it was to a ranked opponent. The opponents who bested Memphis had an average ranking of 5.3. The Tigers lost to three teams ranked first in the nation, Kentucky, Texas Christian University and West Virginia. 

Levi Clark, the only senior on the team, said he wanted to finish his last collegiate season strong.

"I want people to remember me for being a good competitor and a good teammate," Clark said. "The last couple of years have flown by so I am trying to take advantage of the opportunity and really remember it."

Clark is joined by David Crenshaw, Matt Dorey, Taylor Gibson, Arielle Kimm and Mike Meyeraan in the last rifle tournament of the season. The GARC Championship is held for two days: one day for the small-bore rifle competition Feb. 28 and one for the air rifle competition Feb. 29 at the Larry O. Finch Center.

Levi Clark crouches for picture. Clark is the only senior and led the team to his last GARC Championship.

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