Rifle team hosts James Newkirk Invitational to resume season

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Following a two-month break from action, the Tennessee Tech rifle team will return to the range this weekend to host the 19th annual James Newkirk Invitational. In addition to coach Steve Law's Golden Eagles, teams competing Saturday and Sunday include defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Jacksonville State, Murray State and Memphis.

"The Newkirk is always a difficult match for us after the long break," said Law. "These are some outstanding teams coming in here, and we can use this match to loosen up, get back into action and also prepare for the next couple of matches. It will give us a good idea of where we stand heading into those events."

Next week, Tech will host defending national champion West Virginia along with Ole Miss, and on Feb. 5-7 the Golden Eagles will shoot in the OVC Championships.

This weekend's competition begins with Jacksonville State and Murray firing in the first relay of the day, beginning Saturday at 9 a.m. Some of Tech's shooters and Memphis will fill the second relay, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.

On Sunday, the Newkirk schedule will feature the balance of the Golden Eagle lineup plus individual competition and junior shooters.

For Tech, junior Austin Litherland (left) will lead the way. Named the OVC Athlete of the Month for November, Litherland hails from St. Francisville, La., and has established new career-highs in three consecutive matches.

"Austin has come a long way since his arrival at Tennessee Tech," Law said. "He has consistently improved his shooting skills through hard work, dedication and a great work ethic. I couldn't be more proud. I anticipate him qualifying for the NCAA Championships."

Tech's lineup this weekend will also include Patrick Stidham, a senior from Orlando, Fla., Jonathan Zimmerer, a junior from Lindsey, Texas, and senior Curtis Gagne from Clearwater, Fla. Also competing for the Golden Eagles as individuals will be Jessica McCauley, a graduate student from Hannibal, Mo., and freshman Krystle Harris from Gainesville, Fla.

Among the individuals scheduled to compete is Inara Auzins, a familar name in Tech rifle. Auzins was among the top shooters on the team from 2001 to 2005.