FORT BENNING, Ga. (Army News Service, March 15, 2011) -- The NCAA Rifle Championships usually have the U.S. Military Academy team competing, but this year there was a lot more Army flavor.

The 2011 matches last week were co-hosted by the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and Columbus State University of Columbus, Ga.

USAMU's Pool Range at Fort Benning was the site of the smallbore competition March 11, while the air rifle event happened at Columbus State, March 12.

Lt. Col. Daniel Hodne, USAMU commander, was the speaker at the tournament's opening and closing banquets on March 10 and 12.

"Supporting the championship matches was a natural fit for the USAMU," Hodne said. "Our teams of Olympic, national and international champions were very proud to host these collegiate athletes this week. We're all part of a terrific team promoting and developing the sport."

The Accessions Support Brigade, AMU's higher headquarters, worked with AMU to create a community outreach event near the Pool Range on March 10. The Army Adventure Van with helicopter, M1 tank and Humvee simulators were set up next to a shooting demonstration by the AMU's shotgun team at the range complex.

While the collegiate shooters practiced, nearly 700 civilians from the southwest Georgia region visited the Army Accessions displays. The next day 49 college shooters representing 14 universities began their championship quest at the Army's Maneuver Center of Excellence.

Among those teams was West Point with five cadets: senior John Manzano, junior Kelly Buck, sophomore William Mengon and freshmen Richard Calvin and Michael Matthews.

This year was Buck's third straight trip to the NCAAs. She finished fourth in smallbore as a freshman and ninth last year in air rifle.

Last week she was seventh in that discipline and finished tied for 10th in air rifle, one shot out of a shoot-off to compete for the individual title. Overall, the Army team finished eighth in the team competition.

"The competition has been getting harder," Buck said. "The scores have been going up every year so I'm just trying to keep up with everyone. As Army gets better, everyone else gets better."

The University of Kentucky edged West Virgina University 4700-4697 for the 2011 combined title. The Wildcats claimed the smallbore championship over WVU 2336-2329 while the Mountaineers edged UK 2368-2364 in air rifle.

While the U.S. Military Academy was making its eighth straight NCAA appearance, shooters from West Virginia University, University of Kentucky, and others at the tournament do not deal with West Point's training rigors.

"We do everything every cadet does and on top of that we're NCAA athletes," Manzano said. "We practice every single day almost every week and that's a challenge. It's hard work to get everything done and then add to it."

Hodne's speech Saturday was at the tournament's awards dinner, where Buck was named an All American in smallbore for 2011. The rifle tournament does not have permanent home but it could return to Columbus and Fort Benning for 2012.

"Fort Benning and Columbus Georgia feature prominently in the history of competitive shooting in America and this event just adds to that legend," Hodne said. "It's been a great partnership between the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and Columbus State University to host this NCAA Rifle championship."