MIT Pistol Team Takes Third Place at Nationals, Behind 2 Military Colleges

The MIT pistol team captured third place overall at this year’s NRA Collegiate Pistol Championships, placing behind first place United States Military Academy (West Point) and second place United States Naval Academy. Two team members, Michelle C. Ma ’10 and Fuzhou Hu ’09, also took spots on 2009 Collegiate All-American teams. The national championships were held March 16-20 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

MIT’s aggregate score in the Open Team Aggregate — in which both men and women are permitted to compete — was 6120, behind the USMA’s 6259 and the USNA’s 6164. The open aggregate total is comprised of scores from three events: air pistol, free pistol, and standard pistol.

For the Women’s Aggregate, MIT amassed 2582, enough for fourth place. The women’s aggregate total is comprised of scores from only two events: the women’s air pistol event and sport pistol.

In the air pistol event, competitors fire sixty shots in 95 minutes for the open event, and for the women, forty shots in 75 minutes, with maximum scores of 600 for the open and 400 for the women. Targets are placed ten meters from the shooter. MIT had strong showings in both the open and women’s air pistol event, capturing the bronze in both events with scores of 2166 and 1050, respectively. Hu and Gregory I. Telian ’11 led the open team with fourth and sixth place finishes, and were supported by Andrew K. Sugaya ’11 and Patrick B. Wu ’10. On the women’s team, Ma, Lihua Bai ’09, and Mahati Chintapalli ’11 had a strong showing for the bronze. Alexandra Jiang ’11 also supported the women’s team.

Free pistol was the open team’s strongest event — the Engineers, led by Sugaya and Hu, captured the gold medal with an overall score of 1990. The event has competitors firing sixty shots from .22 caliber pistols in two hours for a maximum of 600 points. Sugaya and Hu took the silver and bronze medals, respectively. Completing the open free pistol team were Telian and Wu.

Both Hu and Sugaya had the same score, 515, going into the Finals Round of the individual free pistol event. The Finals Round is a ten-shot extension of the match for the top eight shooters, and each shot is scored to the tenth of a point. Sugaya pulled out a silver finish in free pistol with a finals score of 84.50, bringing his total score to 599.50, while Hu took bronze with a finals score of 80.40 resulting in a total of 595.40.

Will Hart, the MIT pistol coach, noted that the free pistol performance at nationals was likely the best the MIT team had produced this year. “We certainly did well, leading the 2nd place team by 20 points. I was impressed by how well our team started the match and how they continued to shoot well,” he said.

The open team had a more difficult time with standard pistol, another sixty shot .22 caliber event. The standard pistol has competitors firing twenty shots in each of three sub-events: precision fire, rapid fire, and timed fire. Overall, the team placed eighth in the event.

Coach Hart noted that the MIT team faced an “uphill battle” compared to other teams, as the MIT team did not have the luxury of spring break to rest, as many other teams did. He said that the standard team members were “exceptionally tired” for the event, but that the team had good scores going into Nationals and he was surprised that they did not medal or come closer to medaling.

In sport pistol, the second event in determining the women’s aggregate score, the Engineers garnered a fourth place finish. Sport pistol has competitors firing sixty .22 caliber shots in two parts — precision fire and rapid fire.

Hu and Ma were named to several 2009 All-American teams earlier this month. Hu placed on the First Team for Free Pistol, as well as the First Team for Air Pistol. Ma was named to the Second Team for Sport Pistol.

Coach Hart was proud of his team’s performance.

“We have excellent leadership from the top, and below, and our team’s cohesiveness gets us through the challenging week,” he said. “There is no quitting on our team as everyone works through challenges and difficult situations until they find a solution.”

The MIT pistol team has a record of strong performances at Nationals. Last year, the team placed fourth, preceded by two championship titles in 2007 and 2005.

MIT competed against individual competitors and teams from eleven colleges at Nationals this year, ranging from military academies to state schools.