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Vilseck heads into finals on a high note

Vicenza's Diego Nacionales ignores all distraction Saturday, as he takes aim during an Eastern Conference DODDS-Europe marksmanship match at Vilseck, Germany.

VILSECK, Germany – Despite a match in which their rifle team finished third overall, the Ansbach Cougars held on to first place in the Eastern Conference as the DODDS-Europe marksmanship season comes to a close Saturday.

The Cougars began the day with a commanding 43-point lead over the Vilseck Falcons, but were nearly beat out by their conference rivals - who came within 18 points of taking home top honors for the regular season.

Dmitryi Henry was the lone Ansbach marksman in the top five, totaling 274 points between the three disciplines: kneeling, prone and standing as Ansbach totaled 1,344 points.

With what Henry said was his best day of shooting ever and a little help from teammate Brian Sowders (273), the Cougars were able to hold back an onslaught from a Vilseck squad that took first place on the day and second in the conference.

Falcons team captain Meraleigh Randle and freshman marksman Kaitlin Wood took first and second place, respectively, with Randle shooting a 285, as the team ended with a total of 1,379. It was Randle’s penultimate shooting event with the school, as she will be leaving for a full scholarship to Texas Christian University at the end of the school year.

“I’m so happy with my performance, but I’m even happier my team won,” Randle said. “They’ve had a lot of pressure from me, especially since they’re all newer shooters. I know at times they wish they weren’t on my team, but I’m so proud of how they shot this season and today.”

As for Wood, this is her first year of shooting. Saturday was her personal best round, with a 280.

“My goal was to get a 280,” she said. “I woke up this morning and said, ‘I’m going to shoot a 280 today’ and I did! It’s an awesome feeling.”

The Hohenfels Tigers took second on the day and third in the conference, with their top shooter also taking third place. Michelle Wiley hit one less bull’s-eye than Wood, scoring a 280. The Vicenza Cougars also competed, with top shooter Bryan Santiago scoring a 256.

Now, Ansbach, Hohenfels and Vilseck look ahead to the finals in Wiesbaden next weekend with sites set firmly on Patch, a team that has dominated the regular season by consistently topping the 1,400-point mark . Any of the teams could come away with the championship, but it’s the Panthers everybody is looking to take down.

“I trust our team,” Wood said. “It’ll be a challenge for the entire team, but we have really good shooters and I think we’ll be able to do it.”

Darnell.michael@stripes.com

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