As the season comes to a close, the MIT Pistol Team has finished with a strong performance at the National Rifle Association Collegiate Nationals. The scoring members of the MIT women’s team (Jennifer Y. Hsu ’14, Kristine N. Kim ’14, and Jackie Wu ’16) put in an outstanding performance to take home the NRA Collegiate National title, placing first in Women’s Air Pistol and third in Women’s Sport Pistol. This is the first time the team has taken the gold in aggregate since 2007, where the then-varsity team won the open championship.
This year’s national championships were held March 11-13 at Fort Benning, Georgia. MIT students shot with fierce competition against several of the military academies and civilian schools including West Point, Navy, Coast Guard, and Ohio State. MIT was one of the few schools who qualified teams to compete in all five different events, testing their ability to shoot different types of pistols in a variety of timed and slow fire events.
In the first event at Nationals, the Women’s Air Pistol, MIT placed first with a team aggregate of 1080, nine points ahead of second place. Wu (361) led the team, followed closely by Hsu (360) and Kim (359). In this event, competitors fire 40 shots in 75 minutes, to earn a maximum score of 400. Targets are placed ten meters from the shooter.
Wu was the only individual qualifier for this event from MIT, and she finished strong in fifth place over all. Hsu and Kim both shot well enough in the match to make the finals, but because they had not qualified as individual competitors in Sectionals (a match held earlier in the year), they were ineligible to compete individually.
In the second event, Free Pistol, MIT had four competitors: Wu, Kim, Nicholas W. Fine ’16, and Thuan D. Doan ’15. The event consists of 60 shots from .22 caliber pistols in two hours for a maximum of 600 points. In addition to being on the scoring team, Fine and Wu both qualified individually. Wu had the highest score on the MIT team with a score of 462.
In Standard Pistol, the third event, MIT had six individuals qualify and compete: Hsu, Kim, Wu, Fine, team captain Yin F. Chen ’14, and Rebekah J. Cha ’16. This event sees competitors firing 20 shots in each of three courses of fire: precision fire, timed fire, and rapid fire. Cha, who has only been shooting on the team one year, had scored 524, the highest score of the Engineers, and placed ninth overall. The team fared even better, placing a solid sixth.
The following event, Women’s Sport Pistol, turned out to be a nail-biter, as the team match was very closely contested. Sport pistol consists of 60 .22 caliber shots — 30 shots in precision fire and 30 shots in rapid fire. A score of 1589 landed the MIT Women’s Sport team in third place, only one point behind the Ohio State and West Point teams who tied for first and second. Wu and Hsu qualified for the finals in sixth and eighth respectively, finishing in seventh and eighth overall.
Though all three MIT shooters (in typical MIT fashion) stewed over a few points they could have picked up here or there, the strong air performance meant that the MIT women amassed 2669 points, securing MIT’s overall first place. Wu was also able to secure third place in individual Women’s Aggregate.
In the last and final event, Open Air Pistol, Fine led the Engineers with a score of 541 out of 600, and Hsu, Kim, and Wu tied with a score of 533. Although all shooters performed well, their scores were not sufficient to earn any medals.
In the following awards banquet, three MIT students were also named All-Americans. This honor is considered to be the pinnacle of athletic achievement as it requires consistent and exemplary performance throughout the season. Wu earned a place on the All-American Sport Pistol First Team, Standard Pistol Second Team, and Air Pistol Honorable Mention Team. Hsu and Kim were both named on the Sport Pistol Honorable Mention Team.
In addition the achievements of the students, the coaches were honored with the Outstanding Service Award to Collegiate Shooting Sports award and received a standing ovation for their dedication to the team. Volunteer coaches since 2009, Stephan Goldstein, Brooks Lyman, Yakov Ostrovsky, Herald Sulahian, and Doug White truly go the extra mile to help the team improve in any way possible.
Kim says “They aren’t only our coaches, but our friends as well.” Recent graduates and members of the team Wen Chyan ‘13 and Joyce Chen ’12 commented that “As shooters who were with the team during the transition from a varsity team into a club sport, we can say from firsthand experience that without all of the volunteers, alumni, and [Pistol and Rifle Club] that stepped up after loss of our coach and funding, the pistol team would have lost continuity and fallen apart. Specifically, we hope that all team members join us in recognizing that none of this would be possible without the help of our day-to-day volunteers over the past few years. I believe that the [award] is well deserved, and in my opinion, should have been awarded to these outstanding individuals well before this year.”
The coaches and more experienced team members play a big role in transforming MIT students, many of whom have no previous shooting experience, into nationally-competitive athletes.
All team members and coaches are proud of this year’s results and accomplishments. Although Hsu, Kim, and Chen are graduating, they are still training the underclassmen to maintain the competitive strength of the team. Chen will continue to help the team next year as she completes her MEng. Francisco J. Garcia ’17 and William G. Wong ’17 got the opportunity to travel with the team to Nationals and have 3 years of potential ahead of them.
Last weekend, the students shot the last match of the year against alumni of the team, all of whom exemplify the fact that shooting is “a lifetime sport.” Students enjoyed hearing stories of past teams, and shooting alongside their more experienced counterparts, some of whom, like Goldstein, had been national champions in their own right, as well as members of the US team. For the second time in team history, the students were victorious against the alumni, and for the first time, they were victorious in both courses of fire.