Rifle Wraps Up Successful 2023–24 Season

rifle team member aiming rifle

In the 2023–24 season, VMI rifle was ranked in the top 20 programs and Lt. Col. Bill Bither, head coach, was named the 2024 Southern Conference Coach of the Year.—Photo courtesy VMI Athletics.

Following a season that featured multiple program records, Junior Olympic qualifiers, and appearing in the top 20 for the first time in program history, VMI rifle capped off its 2023–24 season with Lt. Col. Bill Bither named the 2024 Southern Conference Coach of the Year.

This marks the second time Bither has been named Coach of the Year, as he also earned the accolade in 2020.

Team Success

VMI rifle’s 2023–24 campaign has been a successful one, setting them up for success as they established new team aggregate records three times, most recently firing a 4598 at The Citadel in January. In the NCAA Qualifier at West Virginia, the Keydets posted a program-best 2341 in the air rifle, a week after notching a new program high in the smallbore of 2276. The efforts led VMI to its first-ever top 20 ranking.

Individual Efforts

Christopher Hicks ’24 has continued his strong career, posting an 1170 aggregate in a win over Wofford. Hicks currently has three of the top four aggregates for VMI, and Ryan Harlow ’25 is tied for third with a score of 1159. Hicks’ best air rifle performance came against Wofford, where he posted a 590, owning the top three air rifle marks this season. While Hicks owns the top spot in smallbore as well, Harlow was just behind with a 577 back in October.

On the women’s side, Victoria Phillips ’25 has led the way for VMI, posting five aggregates of 1142 or better. Phillips led all VMI women shooters in the smallbore, while Laini Morgan ’25 had the top three air rifle scores of 590, 589, and 587.

Closing Out Conference

As a team, VMI finished fifth at the Southern Conference Championships held in Charleston, South Carolina. The women’s squad was just behind the mixed team, placing sixth.

The mixed team had the fourth-best air rifle score with 2319, with Harlow shooting the seventh-highest score of 577 in that discipline, a day after placing sixth in the smallbore. Overall, Hicks’ 1159 was the ninth-best aggregate in the field.

A day after leading the VMI women’s squad in the smallbore, Phillips led all VMI women’s shooters in the air rifle, recording a 566. Katelyn Grochalski ’24 had a good showing in the air rifle, with her 587 tying for eighth overall.

Junior Olympic Qualifiers

The Keydets had five shooters earn qualifying marks for the Junior Olympic Rifle Championships held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in April. Phillips (581) and Emma Cameron (576) qualified for the air rifle, while Zachary Mauriello (576) and Kyle Kemp (562) qualified on the men’s side. In the smallbore, Mauriello hit the qualifying mark with a score of 573.