The MIT pistol team captured their second national championship in three years by beating the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine Academies, and other military and civilian schools in a three-day competition held in March 2007 at West Point.
The final standings in the open division of the National Rifle Association Intercollegiate Championships, which includes both male and female competitors, were MIT (6,372), Army (6,365), and Navy (6,322). MIT’s top individual performers were co-captains Daipan Lee ’07, who placed third overall, and Diana Nee ’07, who placed third among women.
MIT students do so well in pistol because “they are focused, disciplined, detail-orientated, and exceptionally competitive,” Head Coach Will Hart Jr. said in an e-mail in March. Nee concurred and said in an e-mail, “We are used to exercising concentrated focus and self-discipline, which are both really important qualities to be a good shooter.”
Teamwork is another of the Engineers’ advantages. “The MIT pistol team is always, by far, the most tightly-knit team at nationals,” Nee said. The team members say this cohesiveness gives them a feeling of calm, knowing that they have the support of their teammates both competitively and emotionally.
Hart plays a big role transforming MIT students, many of whom have no previous shooting experience, into nationally-competitive athletes. Both Lee and Nee came to MIT without any pistol experience and became national medal winners by their senior year. Hart, last year’s National Rifle Association Distinguished College Coach, says he actually prefers shooters with no experience because they have no bad habits to break.
The national competition itself is a marathon designed to measure as precisely as possible the shooting ability of the teams involved. Teams compete in three different events, testing their ability to shoot different types of pistols with different amounts of time to aim. For example, there is a rapid-fire .22-caliber event where shooters have to make five shots in 10 seconds and an air pistol event where shooters have 75 minutes to shoot 40 shots.
After the free pistol and the standard pistol events, Navy was ahead by one point 4,141-4,140. In the final event, air pistol, Lee, Nee, Edward S. Huo ’08, and Fuzhou Hu ’09 averaged 558 out of 600, good for the top team score in the event and enough to push MIT ahead of Army by seven for the overall victory.
Despite losing Nee, Lee, and another top shooter, P. Raja Palaniappan ’08, after the season, Hart said that another national championship in 2008 is not out of the question. “My philosophy is one shot at a time, one match at a time. But, the best way to get MIT students to do something is to tell them it cannot be done, so we’ll see,” he said.
Lee and Nee ended the season with a slew of awards to add on to the medals they received during their past years on the team. Nee was selected to the All-American First Team for standard, air, and sport pistol. Lee too was selected to the First Team for free and standard pistol, and the Second Team for air pistol. Rounding out the team’s Institute record for All-American selections were Huo in standard pistol (Second Team), YunJa Chen ’07 in sport pistol (Second Team), and Hu ’09 in standard pistol (First Team).
The seniors also ended the season with their NRA membership card that they are required to buy to participate in the tournament. It’s a running joke on the team that they are some of the few card-carrying members of the NRA in Cambridge.