For the first in Nevada Rifle history, the team sent two individual shooters to the NCAA Championships. It will also be the final time, as the team is being disbanded. Senior Mitchell Van Patten and freshman Alec Patajo represented Nevada at the championships. Van Patten finished 14th out of a field of 44 competitors in the smallbore category, Patajo competed in air rifle and finished 30th out of 44.
This was the first time in Van Patten’s four years at Nevada that he qualified for the NCAA Championships. Out of his six rounds on the range, he shot for at least 98 out of a possible 100 points in three of the rounds. In his remaining three rounds, his scores ranged from 97 to a low of 94, finishing with an aggregate score of 580. This was six points lower than his NCAA Qualifier aggregate score that he shot a few weeks ago, and eight points under his career best. He posted his career high on Nov. 12, 2016, when he shot for 588 at Ohio State.
“The opportunity to represent Nevada at the National Championships was an honor and a privilege. There was added pressure to perform well so as to represent my school, family, coach, team, and teammates,” said Van Patten. “I did the best that I could and I had a blast doing it. This was the last year for me as a graduating senior, and it also was the last year of our rifle team due to the recent decision to discontinue the program. Given these circumstances, the opportunity to represent UNR at Nationals was very special to me and I am glad that I could help us go out with a bang.”
Alec Patajo’s career-high total of 593 at the NCAA Qualifier earned him his place at the 2019 NCAA Championship, he was the sole air rifle shooter for Nevada. Patajo stumbled on his first attempt on the range, shooting for a competition low of 93. He steadied his aim and rebounded on his second attempt, shooting for 98, he also tallied the same score on his fourth and sixth rounds. Patajo was one of only five shooters in round three that a shot a perfect score. He also shot a 99 in the fifth round, bringing his aggregate score to 586.
Nevada failed to qualify as a team for the championship, despite placing first place at the NCAA Qualifier and posting a higher score than Alaska, who qualified for the championship.
Throughout its history, Rifle has sent nine individual shooters — including these two — to the NCAA Championships, they have also qualified for eight team appearances, last attending the event in 2012. Rifle has had one individual winner in its history, Ryan Tanoue, who won for air rifle in 2002.
The team has been led by head coach Fred Harvey since the 1995-96 season. Harvey was named the Coach of the Year in 2003 by the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association, his team finished in fourth place at the NCAA Championship that season.
Ryan Freeberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.