West Virginia rifle standout Zublasing turns hard work into titles

| Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 7:06 p.m.

Beste. Migliore. Best.

Whether in German, Italian or English, Petra Zublasing's efforts over the weekend translated into a pair of NCAA individual rifle championships as well as a team title for West Virginia.

Zublasing, a native of Appiano, Italy, speaks all three of those languages, and she demonstrated she's equally fluent in both disciplines at the rifle range.

The Mountaineers senior won the smallbore (.22 caliber) title Friday with a score of 688.3, edging Kentucky's Henri Junghanel (687.8). Smallbore shooting consists of 20 shots each from prone, standing and kneeling positions from 50 feet.

Then, Saturday, she claimed her second consecutive air rifle championship with a score of 701.7, cruising past TCU's Sarah Scherer (695.3). The air rifle competition is 60 shots taken while standing from 40 feet.

Zublasing became the first competitor to earn both individual rifle titles since Alaska-Fairbanks' Matt Emmons did it in 2001. It's also West Virginia's 15th team title and first since 2009.

She did all that after battling illness that bugged her upon her return from Denmark, where she represented Italy in the European air rifle championships just days before the NCAA championships.

“I actually did not really expect to win everything like this. For me, I tried to give everything on every single shot,” said Zublasing, who's majoring in civil engineering. “Then if somebody else shoots better than me, I couldn't really help that. As long as I did everything in my power, I was OK. And it turned out doing everything in my power was enough to win both championships and to help win the team championship.”

Competing in international events, as she did over the summer in the London Olympics, has helped her get in the right mindset.

“When it comes to that level of the sport,” said West Virginia coach Jon Hammond, who also competed for Great Britain at the London Olympics, “the mental aspect is huge, especially when you come to a big championship like that.”

There's also a physical toll to be paid through the daily hours of practice, with repetition honing muscle memory. Hammond cited Zublasing's dedication and her willingness to embrace hard work as ingredients in her success.

“That means, if you have a bad match, even though you shot better than everybody else, you feel like you didn't do good enough, after the match you'll stay and train some more,” she said. “Then everybody looks at you like, ‘Oh my god. She's just nuts.' But that's what I did this year. Whenever you're not satisfied, you work on it. And if it takes you being up until four in the morning because you couldn't do your homework in the afternoon because you were in the range, that's just the sacrifice you have to make.”

That sacrifice was rewarded with two more championships. The NCAA presented Zublasing with a wooden trophy, but a replica pro wrestling championship belt from the team's sports psychologist might be more memorable.

When teammate Nicco Campriani won the NCAA air rifle title in 2011, he had a similar belt that found its way into quite a few pictures. But the belt was lost amidst the revelry. Two years later, Zublasing proudly displayed the new belt atop the podium.

“The trophy's nice. The trophy is what's official,” she said. “But I think the belt is what reminds me. I might not remember the trophy when I'm 90 years old; I'm definitely going to remember the times I spent with the people that gave me the belt, that were out with us, that were in the pictures.

“I think that's the moral of this: even winning championships is nice, but the time that you are actually with the people making that experience is worth much more.”

Mike Palm is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mpalm@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MikePalm_Trib.

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