The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) rifle team has been an official NCAA Husker sport since 1998. Traditionally fielding all female members, the team has won three individual National Titles over its existence and several All-American honors.
In 2019, Rachel Martin, a former athlete on the Husker team, took over as head coach – leading the school to several records, including the highest and second-highest scores in school history at regular season matches. Current member Elena Flake also tied the highest individual air rifle score in school history and was named an All-American, along with two other talented Husker athletes. As a team, the Huskers finished with a third-place regular season finish in the Great America Rifle Conference and fourth place at the conference championships.
Name: Rachel Martin
Hometown: Peralta, New Mexico
College Coach for: University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL)
Were you a shooter before coaching? I started competing when I was eight years old in our local 4-H program. I have been blessed with an amazing career, but my most cherished accomplishment is my NCAA Champion title in Smallbore (my favorite gun). My dad and his side of the family are all shotgun shooters, but he coached me in rifle throughout high school and college and still works with me today.
My parents are my biggest role models, and I have seen them make a difference in so many people’s lives because of their faith and their willingness to serve others. College was a very difficult time for me, and it made me realize how much of a difference it makes when you have someone like my parents as a coach or mentor. I wanted to use my experience, faith and knowledge to be a coach like them.
After I graduated and spent some time at the Olympic Training Center with my now assistant coach, Mindy Miles, I got a job coaching under Web Wright at the U.S. Military Academy. I learned a lot from him and I got to work with an amazing group of cadets that I have a lot of respect for. Shortly after, I was hired at UNL, and Coach Miles and I brought the team from a #14 ranking to a #4 ranking in one year.
Favorite reason for coaching: I love seeing a shooter that I have been working with learn from my mistakes instead of making their own. It is really exciting when one of my shooters is willing to learn not just from my accomplishments, but from some of the worst matches of my career. I can tell they have really grown when whatever the outcome of a match, they take responsibility for it.
What is a day as your shooter like? Typically, our shooters have training all together. I don’t like to break up practices into different groups because I think it is important they create a bond as a team. They do a lot of physical training (this semester we focused mainly on core and back strength), and they also work with a sports psychologist, sports nutritionist and athletic trainer.
What is your biggest challenge as a coach? My biggest challenge as a coach is pushing my shooters to realize their full potential and holding them accountable. As a coach, you often have to be the person in their life that holds them to a higher standard, and a lot of people don’t appreciate that in the moment. But you have to be willing to have their anger directed at you because it is what is best for them. That can be difficult because even coaches have feelings. But my job isn’t to save my pride or always feel good – my job is to put my athletes first.
Advice for junior shooters wanting to compete in college and for college athletes and graduating college seniors? Be persistent. All college coaches have numerous athletes emailing them for spots on their team. The ones that stand out to me are the ones that I keep seeing pop up in my email.
The first things I ask for are a shooting resume and a high school transcript. If you shoot 630’s in Air Rifle but have bad grades, I won’t consider you for my team. I look for well-rounded individuals who want to make a difference in the world, rather than being solely focused on their shooting career. Another tip is to realize the amount of work it takes to be a part of a Division 1 team. Performance on the range, practice time, physical fitness and grades are all things that you need to have as a priority.
Any additional comments/stories/advice you’d like to add? Have fun. Shooting (especially in college) can feel like a job, if you let it. Your ability to separate who you are from your scores is something that will shape your experience not just on the range, but in your life. Shooting is an amazing sport that teaches you valuable lessons and allows you to meet people and create memories that you will never forget. But it should never be the sole focus of your life. Being an athlete gives you a platform to make a difference, if you have the courage to do so.
Name: Mindy Miles
Hometown: Weatherford, Texas
What college did you shoot for? What do you have a degree in? Texas Christian University, with a major in Strategic Communications – Advertising and Public Relations and a minor in Business
What did you like about being a CMP Junior Rifle Camp Counselor? It was fun to interact with young shooters who had a fresh perspective on shooting. I was exposed to solving issues and finding different ways to communicate effectively with my campers. I was also reminded that the basics are always worth revisiting. I always left at the end of the summer refreshed and eager to make the changes I needed for the upcoming season.
What is a day as your shooter like? A day as a UNL rifle athlete varies day to day. A day always includes a morning practice, and twice a week we have workouts. All of our athletes work with a sports psychologist, and many have tutors they work with. All of our athletes have classes, but it depends on the class whether it is online or in person.
What is your biggest challenge as an assistant coach? My biggest challenge as an assistant coach has been trying to explain the technical skill effectively. Usually it takes time for me to think of the processes I utilized as an athlete and put them into words so my athletes can understand. We all have our way of interpreting and understanding information, and it can be quite challenging to convey a point.
Advice for junior shooters wanting to compete in college and for college athletes and graduating college seniors? Make sure to connect with college coaches. Although we cannot always talk or answer your emails, we do receive them and see the effort you are making.
Create a shooting resume and score keeping book (possibly with attached targets if possible) A.S.A.P. The sooner you start one, then less you have to scramble to find the past matches you participated in. The more history we have to look at, the more improvement we can see.
Name: Cecelia Ossi
Hometown/Junior Team: Annandale, New Jersey; Ontenlaunee Jr. Rifle
What is your major? Favorite class? My major is undetermined, and my favorite class so far is History of Rock and Roll (I love music.).
How old were you when you got involved in rifle? I was 17 years old.
Favorite rifle and stage? Favorite gun is .22, and favorite position is standing.
What do you do outside of rifle to train and better yourself? I work out almost every day, and I take time to relax by playing guitar.
Future plans/goals for rifle and life? My goals as a rifle athlete are to become the best I can be and to push myself to my limit. I hope to be able to compete on the U.S. team one day. My goals in life are to become a pilot like my mom as well as join the military to serve my country.
Any additional comments/stories/advice you’d like to add? The most important tools you can develop in life are perspective, attitude and ethic. If you work on developing these skills constantly, you will eventually succeed, no matter the odds.
Name: Ibby Lorentz
Hometown/Junior Team: Hellgate Junior Shooters
What is your major? Favorite class? Biological sciences and pre-optometry; My favorite class is my genetics, specifically the lab. I like creating mutations and seeing the phenotypic impacts on the organisms.
Favorite junior match you competed in? Winter Air Gun; I loved seeing my friends and all the energy.
What is a practice day like for you? I do my pre-practice stretches before I do anything else. Then, I set up for Air or Smallbore, depending on what I need to work on that day. I either work with coaches if I need to make adjustments to the position of my process or I pick one part of my process that I am struggling with or needs more attention to focus on. Then, I like to pick a drill based on what I need to work on. When I’m done, I make some notes about what I worked on, then I do my post-practice stretches.
What has rifle taught you? Rifle has taught me a lot about patience. No matter what you do, it takes time to see improvement. You have to be patient with yourself when you are struggling. You can’t just get frustrated and give up when you can’t fix things right away.
Name: Madelynn Erickson
Hometown/Junior Team: Sutter, California; Sutter High Rifle Team
What is your major? Favorite class? My major is Nutrition, Exercise and Health Science. My favorite class is Biology because I love science and want to learn about the body’s processes.
How old were you when you got involved in rifle? I started rifle when I was 11 years old through the 4-H team in my hometown, and then I progressed onto the high school team.
Favorite rifle and stage? I love both air rifle and .22 the same because I love the difference between them and the different challenges they bring for each position.
What do you do outside of rifle to train and better yourself? I workout, doing lots of cardio and core strength to better myself in rifle and my positions. I also practice meditation and work on healthy eating habits.
Future plans/goals for rifle and life? I plan to better myself as a shooter and an individual at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I want to make an impact as a great teammate and rifle shooter. I plan on earning my bachelor’s degree and entering PT school to become a physical therapist.
Any additional comments/stories/advice you’d like to add? I am so grateful and proud to be an athlete and rifle shooter at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and to be a part of such a hard-working team, with an inspiring coaching staff and support system.
Name: Elena Flake
Hometown/Junior Team: Colorado Springs, Colorado; National Training Center Shooting Club
What is your major? Favorite class? Criminology and Criminal Justice; I want a career in law enforcement, after I serve time in the military. I enjoy all of my criminal justice classes because they give me a better understanding of a huge part of our society.
What other clubs/sports/hobbies did you have in high school? I played soccer for a couple of my high school years and was on the drill team for the NJROTC Program. Through NJROTC, I was able to do a lot of different activities and make a lot of friends.
Do you have a mantra or saying? I don’t have a mantra or a saying, it’s more of a mindset. Walking into the range, I’m going to be the best, no matter what happens. Not the best on the range or the best of the match – nothing that puts anyone else beneath me. I’ll be my best self, put my best foot forward and give it my best effort 100 percent of the time.
What motivates you? Competition and pride are my biggest motivators. I love competing – the adrenaline and the drive that you absolutely have to have to make it possible. Also, pride, because I am very proud of what I do. I put a lot of work into who I’ve become and what I have achieved through shooting.
What is a travel match like for you? Travel matches are a lot of fun for me because, as a team, we get to not only travel and see new places, but we also get a chance to truly represent the University of Nebraska and our sport. As student-athletes, even just walking around on campus, we stick out. People know who we are and don’t stop to ask questions because at that point, we all represent Nebraska.
But when we travel, we get to interact with people who don’t know what Nebraska is all about. We get to show, even if only for a few minutes at a time, how we are student-athletes at one of the best universities in this country. We also get the opportunity to discuss our sport in situations where some people truly have no idea that it is actually a sport, and they are genuinely curious and supportive about it.
Advice for new competitors joining the sport? Always have a positive outlook on everything you do at the range. You have to be able to take the good and the bad and pull something you can learn out of it. One of my favorite things to tell younger athletes is if you’re not learning anything while you’re up on that firing line, you’re wasting your time. It shocks them at first, and they try to argue, but when I tell them that they have to be willing to acknowledge and take responsibility for the mistakes they make so they can learn from them, I see it start to click.
Rifle is scored as a team, but when you’re up on the firing line, all of your great shots and all of the mistakes come down to one person – yourself. And you have to be able to take responsibility for that and want to get better.
Any additional comments/stories/advice you’d like to add? Another piece of advice: don’t ever be afraid to ask for help in this community. We all want to see athletes do well, and if you’re just starting out, you are the future of this sport, and we want to see this legacy carried on for a long time after we are done.
— Ashley Brugnone, CMP Staff Writer, and Catherine Green, CMP Program Staff
The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a federally chartered 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation. It is dedicated to firearm safety and marksmanship training and to the promotion of marksmanship competition for citizens of the United States. For more information about the CMP and its programs, log onto www.TheCMP.org.