No. 2 Rifle Earns Share of GARC Regular-Season Title, Wins at No. 4 WVU
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 2 University of Kentucky rifle team used a strong performance in air rifle to post a come-from-behind victory at No. 4 West Virginia on Saturday and earn a share of the Great America Rifle Conference Regular-Season Championship.
This is the third straight season that the Wildcats have earned at least a share of the conference regular-season title. This is the first time UK has earned back-to-back-to-back titles since winning the regular-season championship three-straight times from 2011 to 2013. UK shares the title in 2022 with WVU and Ole Miss, who also have one loss in GARC action.
“The final score may not have been as high as we have been scoring, but I am just as proud today because the team found a way to dig deep and persevere when we needed it the most,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said. “West Virginia is a very good team and a tough place to go get a win, but our team found a way today and that makes me proud. To win a share of three straight GARC Regular-Season Championships is special and not something we will take lightly. Proud today, but we have more work to do if we want to end this season strong.”
Kentucky earned the win at West Virginia and thus a share of the GARC title with a 2325 in smallbore and 2377 in air rifle for a total aggregate score of 4702. West Virginia led Kentucky after smallbore with a 2329 in the discipline but fell short of UK’s air rifle total with a 2371 for an aggregate of 4700.
Kentucky senior Will Shaner was the overall top performer at the event, scoring a 589 in smallbore and 597 in air rifle for a 1186 aggregate. Fellow senior Richard Clark was third overall at the match with a 585 in smallbore and 595 in air rifle. Junior Mary Tucker scored a 582 in smallbore and 595 in air rifle, while freshman Allison Buesseler was very impressive at the match with a 581 in smallbore and 590 in air rifle for a 1171 aggregate.
Sophomores Mason Hamilton, Jaden Thompson and Emmie Sellers had strong matches. Hamilton, who was in the smallbore lineup, scored a 569 in the discipline and added a 585 in air rifle. Thompson earned a 565 in smallbore and a strong 594 in air rifle, while Sellers scored a 575 in smallbore and 591 in air rifle. UK’s other two rookies performed well in their first match at WVU with Tori Kopelen scoring a 578 in smallbore and 588 in air rifle, while Kayla Kalenza had a 566 in smallbore and 585 in air rifle. Senior Mitchell Nelson scored a 573 in smallbore and 575 in air rifle.
WVU was led at the match by Tal Engler, who scored a 586 in smallbore and 599 in air rifle for a 1185 aggregate. Engler’s strong score placed him at the top of the air rifle leaderboard and second overall at the match. Malori Brown scored a 587 in smallbore and 593 in air rifle for a 1180 to finish fourth overall.
Kentucky will return to action next Saturday inside the Barker Hall Rifle Range as it hosts a NCAA Qualifier with Morehead State. UK will also honor its three seniors at the match. Following the match, UK will travel to West Point, New York for the GARC Championships, which will be Feb. 25-26.
For more information on the Kentucky rifle team, visit UKathletics.com or follow UKRifle on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.