It’s been his experience that those are the best times for a team to make hay.
The Gamecocks won’t be one of the favorites this weekend in Columbus, Ga.
Depending on how one crunches the numbers that created the field, the Gamecocks are the fifth or sixth best team in the eight-team field. While that puts them under the radar compared to the likes of Murray State, 14-time national champion West Virginia, Kentucky and defending champion TCU, it also makes them dangerous.
“You never know,” Frost said. “You’ve heard it several times — it’s a freakin’ mental game, more mental than anything. When you get out there in the nationals, it’s no longer the skills playing that much of a factor any more than match pressure and how you handle it.
“There were times we didn’t have faith going in we’d do good and we actually got two or three other teams that were much stronger. Sometimes when you go in and you know you’re in a top 3 spot and you’re trying so hard to get the top spot, they’re the teams that usually choke the most.
“That may be the same type situation this weekend. I think we have a good advantage not going in that high. We want to go out there and shoot a match like we always have and let the other people worry about it. If we get top 4, I’ll be very happy.”
The event opens Friday with the smallbore relays at the U.S. Army Marksmanship Center on Fort Benning. The Gamecocks are expected to line up with Kayla Carstensen in the 7 a.m. session, followed by Brian Carstensen and Monica Fyfe at 9:45 and Andrea Dardas and Sam Muegge at 12:30 p.m. The top 10 scores shoot off for individual glory at 3:30
Their air rifle lineup Saturday at Columbus State’s Frank G. Lumpkin Center likely will depend on the team’s standing after Friday.
The Gamecocks won the smallbore team title in 2009. They missed the national title by one point in 2005.
At first blush, smallbore would appear to be their best chance for a title this time. Brian Carstensen won the NCAA individual title in 2009 and Dardas is the reigning Ohio Valley Conference smallbore champion who came within a point of winning the sectional.
Still, the Gamecocks have been more consistent in air rifle this season.
Frost usually breaks down the scoring in the two disciplines before the championship to better guage the Gamecocks’ chances, but he hadn’t done it by earlier in the week because the formula for picking the field has changed.
The Gamecocks are coming off their two best outings of the year, shooting a season-high 4661 at the OVC Championships, followed by a 4655 at the NCAA Sectionals.
“What place you go in going out doesn’t matter at all,” Dardas said. “It just matters what you shoot when you get out there.
“We didn’t go in 1, 2 or 3, so we don’t have all that pressure. Right now we have the mentality of, ‘OK, we made it to nationals, great. Let’s see what we can do.’ We have nothing to lose. Usually when we have that, it’s less pressure for us. We don’t have to worry about it and stress out about it that much.”
The other three teams in the field are Army, Navy and 10-time national champion Alaska-Fairbanks.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.