Nanook Corner: UAF Rifle's decorated program

Published: Oct. 3, 2019 at 8:25 PM AKDT
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Success can be measured in many forms, but the most indisputable way, is to look at the trophy case. They say numbers never lie, and it is hard to argue with the University of Alaska Nanook Rifle program's 10 national championships and 72 All-Americans.

One man who has been a part of the team's rich history, is current head coach Layne Lewis, who is in his fourth year at the helm. Lewis won three national championships with UAF from 2006-2008, and was a small-bore All-American as well.

The already established family culture of the program kept Lewis around after his shooting days.

"I have never left the family. I went from being the athlete, to being a booster and a sponsor,” Lewis said. “I was the assistant coach for a year when the former coach asked for my help…and when the former coach resigned, they asked me to come in and I had to because they're my family.”

When thinking of dominant sports in Alaska, typically one would think dog mushing, hockey or skiing. So, how does the second most decorated NCAA rifle program in history reside in Alaska? Well, sometimes all it takes is one domino to fall, or All-American in this case, to get things rolling.

"Part of that has just been the success of our All-Americans. Our first one was in 1961 I believe,” Lewis said. “That just kind of opened the door. Once one person did it, everybody else that was in the program back then saw that it was possible and it just has been building and growing ever since then."

Not only is the program successful, but it is innovative as well. The UAF Rifle program has been involved in advancing the sport to what it is today. Coach Lewis hopes to continue this during his coaching days and beyond.

"I want to make it an even bigger spectator sport,” Lewis said. “Our former coach Dan Jordan was the first one to host what we call the 'modern' NCAA championships, on the electronic targets and that kind of stuff.”

“I am trying to take it a step further; how can we get the audience more involved and make it an actual event to come here versus just sitting here and watching people shoot? So, I am trying to find way to get more community involvement, both ways, them with us and the team with the community.”

There are opportunities coming up to see the historic rifle program in action. On Friday October 11th, UAF will be taking on Ohio State in the E.F. Horton Rifle Range on campus, before hosting Texas Christian on the 13th.

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