No. 2 Rifle Begins GARC Championships Friday in West Point

No. 2 Rifle Begins GARC Championships Friday in West Point

by Evan Crane

LEXINGTON, Ky. – After securing a share of the regular-season Great America Rifle Conference title earlier this season, the No. 2 University of Kentucky rifle team looks to bring home more hardware this weekend as it competes in the GARC Championships in West Point, New York.

The two-day event begins with smallbore relays Friday and air rifle relays Saturday. Competition both days is scheduled to begin at approximately 8 a.m. ET with an eight-finalist individual format to follow each day. Army, Akron, Memphis, Navy, NC State, Nebraska, Ole Miss and West Virginia will join UK at the event. Live stats are available ukathletics.com. The GARC Championships were held virtually last season.

Kentucky is averaging an aggregate score of 4720.73 this season thanks to a 2343.73 smallbore average and 2377 air rifle average. It has been a year full of school records as the Wildcats set new program marks in smallbore, air rifle and aggregate. All three marks came in UK’s win vs. NC State at Army.  The match started with Kentucky earning a school-record team score in smallbore of 2360, besting its previous best of 2358. The Wildcats topped that in air rifle with a school-record 2392, which was one better than the previous best of 2391. The two high marks totaled a 4752 aggregate team score, which was not only a school record but a NCAA record. Both TCU and Alaska Fairbanks scored 4752 team scores in succeeding weeks.

The Wildcats are one of two teams in the nation that have scored two team smallbore scores of 2359 or higher this season. UK has the second and third highest air rifle team scores in the nation this season as the only team to score over 2390 in the discipline twice. Overall, the Wildcats along with TCU and Alaska Fairbanks are the only teams to score team aggregate marks of 4740 or better this season.

Senior Will Shaner, who won a gold medal in air rifle in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, leads Kentucky averaging a 1186.889 aggregate this season with a 590.222 in smallbore and 596.667 in air rifle. Junior Mary Tucker, who earned a silver medal in Tokyo, is earning a 1186.778 aggregate this season behind a 589.556 smallbore and 597.222 air rifle. Senior Richard Clark is having a great season for the Wildcats, earning a 585.182 in smallbore and 594.182 in air rifle. Fellow senior Mitchell Nelson is earning a 580.818 in smallbore and 589.909 in air rifle.

Freshman Allison Buesseler has performed well for UK in the last few months and earned her first spot in both lineups last weekend, scoring well in both disciplines. On the season, she is averaging 573.4 in smallbore and 591.091 in air rifle. Junior Jaden Thompson and Emmie Sellers are having strong years. Thompson is averaging 578.889 in smallbore and 588.333 in air rifle, while Sellers is earning 577.1 in smallbore and 589.364 in air rifle. Fellow junior Mason Hamilton is earning a 578.818 in smallbore and 583.7 in air rifle. Freshmen Tori Kopelen and Kayla Kalenza have started their college careers strong. Kopelen is averaging 578.889 in smallbore and 584.5 in air rifle, while Kalenza is 571.714 in smallbore and 582.25 in air rifle.

Following the GARC Championships, Kentucky will compete in the NCAA Rifle Championship. The national event will take place from March 11-12 inside the United States Air Force Academy’s Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Individual and team competition in smallbore is scheduled for Friday, March 11 while air rifle competition will be on Saturday, March 12.

For more information on the Kentucky rifle team, visit UKathletics.com or follow UKRifle on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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