MURRAY — Murray State’s recent recipient of the inaugural “Human Benchrest” award and one of this year's nominees for Athlete of the Year, Barbara Schläpfer has been busy this summer with the Swiss national team as she looks to continue her career in rifle.
“I am part of the Swiss national team at the moment. I shot at a competition in Italy this summer, and next month I am competing for a spot on the World Cup team,” Schläpfer said. “I want to compete more in international competitions for my country, and represent them as much as I can.”
If her career at Murray State is any indication of the success that she can have, then the sky is the limit for the former Racer as she reaches for her dreams.
Her life was changed early on thanks to her family and a simple introduction to a sport that isn’t well known or glamorous.
“I got into rifle through my family. My uncle was a coach, and he told me to give it a try, I never left,” Schläpfer said.
Once she fired the first shot, the ascent to greatness began, but eventually, she reached an impasse and was faced with an impossible decision. If she were to stay in Switzerland, she would have to decide to go to school or shoot rifle, but she couldn’t do both. That's where Murray State came into play.
“At my old university, I would have to make a decision to either shoot or go to school, and I was not ready to make that decision,” Schläpfer said. “I hadn’t heard of Murray until I met an Italian shooter who was a former World Champion that shot for WVU. She told me about Coach (Alan Lollar), NCAA rifle and the (Murray State) team. She also connected me and coach.”
This new opportunity was exactly what she was looking for because it gave her the chance to pursue both athletics and school so she made the move, and to begin with it was challenging.
“All the unknown was a little scary at the beginning. I only was in contact with Coach Lollar, I didn’t have family in the country, but the team quickly became my new family and made me feel at home,” Schläpfer said. “With that, everything came much easier and Murray became my second home.”
She was a four-year shooter for the rifle team and helped win four OVC championships during her time with Murray State. Part of the success the team had came from the camaraderie that they had and the support they gave each other.
“I think in a small team like ours, leadership works a little different. I always tried to be a good example. I wanted people to see that I work hard, and tried to motivate them to do the same.” Schläpfer said. “But even as a good athlete, it is important that your teammates know that everyone has their ups and downs. The important part is that you keep working and that giving up is no option.”
The hard work paid off for Schläpfer because by the end of the year, she had the highest average in smallbore in the nation and earned a nomination for Athlete of the Year as well as the first-ever “Human Benchrest” award in Racer history.
“I worked a lot on my technique over the summer and used the months to make progress. I also worked on some new competition strategies. Another very important factor for me was to be able to train with Kenzie (Martin),” Schläpfer said. “We kept pushing each other to the next level and challenged each other to become a better athlete. And last but not least, Coach and I worked a lot on the mental aspects.”
Now that she is moving to the national stage, she will likely lean on something that she learned during her time at Murray State about performing on the big stage.
“I think the trick was to accept that I was going to be nervous, but with having such a great team with me every year, it was much easier to focus and not worry,” Schläpfer said. “I knew they would give all they had, and they would never give up.”
The same can likely be said now as she continues to pursue a spot on the World Cup roster. It will certainly be a best-of-the-best team, and Schläpfer has proven once that she’s the best in the nation at smallbore, so she could potentially earn a spot and continue her excellent career. At the end of the day, she will still be a part of Murray State University.
“I am so glad that I decided to go to Murray. Once a Racer, always a Racer,” Schläpfer said.