NCAA rifle championships a homecoming for University High’s Flowers

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Though many eyes will be on top-ranked West Virginia’s shooters when the NCAA rifle championships open Friday, other competitors have deep ties to the Mountaineers program.
Morgantown native Aaron Flowers, a freshman shooting for Army, is a 2017 graduate of University High. He was a student at West Virginia before being accepted to West Point.
“He took a lot of his engineering classes, calculus, and science during that year he spent here,” said his father Carl Flowers. “He didn’t get accepted the first time, but he applied the next year and he made it.”
The emergence of Flowers is no long shot. His mother, Marsha Beasley, is the former WVU rifle coach who’s now leading the program at Ole Miss.
“He got me back into it,” said Beasley, who left the WVU position during the tumultuous era when the program was briefly eliminated in the early 2000s.
After her separation from WVU, she spent time being a mom, more specifically a “rifle mom.”
Aaron started out shooting long-range and high-powered rifles with the West Virginia Junior Marksmanship program in Buckhannon. When he set his sites on a service academy appointment, Marsha encouraged him to consider a transition to smallbore and air rifle.
“I thought it might help him get into the academy — in the end it did not,” she said.
Still, Aaron followed his mother’s advice and shot matches during his high school days. He was a member of the Mason Dixon Junior Rifle Club and shot some of his matches at the WVU rifle range at the Shell Building.
“I was taking him around to matches and coaching him,” said Marsha. “Then suddenly, I’m bitten by the bug and getting back into it. He’s really the reason I’m now back coaching in college.”
This weekend, Beasley is back in Morgantown to watch the championships and her son compete. Her Ole Miss shooters barely missed qualifying for the NCAA championships.
“As a mom, I’m very proud, but I think it’s just very cool for a hometown boy to be competing in the NCAA championship in his hometown,” Beasley said.
After attending Thursday’s practice session, Beasley said it was surreal to see the Coliseum transformed into a rifle range. “The setup is beautiful and it is just so exciting that WVU is doing this.”
Much like Nick Saban’s football coaching tree sprouted from LSU and Alabama, West Virginia’s legendary rifle program has coaching branches stretching far and wide in the sport. Many will return to their roots this weekend.
Three head coaches for the nation’s service academies are former WVU shooters.
Web Wright is the coach for 11th-ranked Army. A 1989 WVU grad, he was a seven-time All American shooter and a member of national championship teams in 1986, 1988, and 1989.

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