No. 2 Kentucky Posts 4735 NCAA Qualifying Score Saturday
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Behind the third-best team smallbore score of the season, the No. 2 University of Kentucky rifle team posted an impressive NCAA qualifying score of 4735 on Saturday inside the Barker Hall Rifle Range.
“It was a fun Saturday inside the range and I am happy with our team’s performance overall,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said. “It was great to have Richard, Mitchell and Will in the first relay and see them perform well. Richard was solid all day in both disciplines and I am so proud of how well he is performing right now. I was also glad to see Allison Buesseler have a strong day in both lineups. We will turn our attention to the selection show Tuesday and then the GARC Championships.”
Kentucky honored its three seniors between relays Saturday. Richard Clark, Mitchell Nelson and Will Shaner were honored for their hard work and dedication to the UK program.
All three athletes have had great careers since arriving in Lexington, including helping the program win a national championship in 2021 and three straight Great America Rifle Conference Regular-Season Championships. As sophomores, the group helped Kentucky to the GARC regular-season and tournament championships while UK put together an undefeated regular season and had the top seed heading into the 2020 NCAA Championships, which were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Saturday’s score will be the last factor determining the field for the 2022 NCAA Rifle Championships. Each team’s three score aggregate average – the score based on each team’s highest three regular season scores fired at three different locations – has already been recorded. This weekend’s qualifier score will be added to that average. The teams with the eight highest combined scores will qualify for the NCAA Championship.
UK’s three scores it will count as part of its NCAA Qualifying score are its school-record 4752 at Army on January 16, an impressive 4741 fired at Murray State on Jan. 22 and its 4736 at Navy on Oct. 30. The impressive scores currently place UK second in the NCAA qualifying standings at 4743 with Alaska-Fairbanks sitting first at 4750.
Kentucky started Saturday with its third-best smallbore team score of the season of 2357. It was junior Mary Tucker that paced Kentucky in the discipline, shooting a 593 overall after a 199 in kneeling, 200 in prone and 194 in standing. Senior Will Shaner posted a 590 in smallbore, while fellow senior Richard Clark posted a 586 after a perfect 200 in prone. Freshman Allison Buesseler, making her debut in the smallbore lineup, scored a career-best 588, posting a 195 in kneeling, 198 in prone and 195 in standing. Senior Mitchell Nelson and junior Jaden Thompson completed the first relay with a 574 and 576, respectively.
In the second smallbore relay, Kentucky was led by freshmen Tori Kopelen and Kayla Kalenza, who scored a 585 and 581, respectively. Sophomores Emmie Sellers and Mason Hamilton performed well with Sellers earning a 577, while Hamilton scored a 574.
The Wildcats earned a 2378 in air rifle to secure the strong NCAA qualifying team score. Shaner and Clark paced Kentucky with each scoring 596s in air rifle. Tucker and Buesseler each scored 593s in the discipline, giving Buesseler a new career-high aggregate score of 1181. Nelson posted a 592 while Thompson shot a 582 to complete the Kentucky lineup. Sellers paced the second relay with a 594, while Kopelen had a 587, Kalenza a 584 and Hamilton a 583.
Morehead State also competed at Saturday’s match, scoring a 2311 in smallbore and 2346 in air rifle for a 4657 aggregate. Bryce Ward led the Eagles in smallbore at 583, while Erin Diehl paced the team with a 591 in air rifle.
The NCAA National Collegiate Rifle Selection Show will air at 3 p.m. ET Tuesday, Feb. 22nd on NCAA.com. A link to the show will be on the front page of NCAA.com. Following the show, Kentucky will participate in the GARC Championships next weekend in West Point, New York. Competition begins Friday, Feb. 25 and will conclude Saturday, Feb. 26. The NCAA Championships are scheduled for March 11-12 in Colorado Springs.
For more information on the Kentucky rifle team, visit UKathletics.com or follow UKRifle on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.