Kentucky Rifle Begins 2022 NCAA Championships Friday
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky rifle team, which has had a memorable season winning the Great America Rifle Conference regular season and tournament championships, looks for its fourth national championship in program history this weekend at the 2022 NCAA Rifle Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The national event will begin Friday with smallbore and conclude Saturday with air rifle competition. The event will take place inside the United States Air Force Academy’s Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A individual final will take place following each discipline with a team champion crowned after air rifle competition. The NCAA Rifle Championships will be streamed live on NCAA.com each day, while live scoring will be available at UKathletics.com.
Kentucky, which is currently ranked second nationally has won the national title three times – 2011, 2018 and 2021 – with six runner-up finishes.
UK qualified for the event after a strong regular season and NCAA qualifying score. Each team’s three score aggregate average – the score based on each team’s highest three regular season scores fired at three different locations – was added to each team’s NCAA qualifier score to determine the field for the event. Kentucky along with Air Force, Alaska Fairbanks, Murray State, Navy, Ole Miss, TCU and West Virginia had the eight highest combined scores, thus qualifying for the NCAA Championship.
UK’s three scores it counted as part of its NCAA Qualifying score are the 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. Kentucky then fired a 4735 in qualifying for a final total of 9478. Alaska Fairbanks was the top qualifier at 9490. TCU was third at 9477.33, followed by Air Force, Ole Miss, WVU, Navy and Murray State.
Kentucky is averaging an aggregate score of 4721.92 this season thanks to a 2344.42 smallbore average and 2377.50 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.
Junior Mary Tucker, who earned a silver medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, leads Kentucky averaging a 1186.8 aggregate this season with a 589.9 in smallbore and 596.9 in air rifle. Senior Will Shaner, who won a gold medal in air rifle in Tokyo, is earning a 1186.4 aggregate this season behind a 589.6 smallbore and 596.8 air rifle. Senior Richard Clark is having a great season for the Wildcats, earning a 585.25 in smallbore and 594.083 in air rifle. Freshman Allison Buesseler has performed well for UK in the last few months and earned her first spot in both lineups this weekend, scoring well in both disciplines. On the season, she is averaging 574.636 in smallbore and 591.667 in air rifle. Junior Jaden Thompson is having a strong year averaging 578.7 in smallbore and 588.7 in air rifle.
UK is coming off earning the GARC Championship two weekends in West Point, New York. Needing a big score in the final air rifle relay, Buesseler posted a career-high tying 598 to give Kentucky just enough to earn the 2022 GARC Championship. The Wildcats earned the title thanks to a 2383 air rifle team score on top of a 2352 smallbore team score from Friday for a 4735 overall aggregate. The championship is the second for Kentucky in the last three season after the Wildcats also won the crown in 2020. It was Kentucky’s seventh GARC Championship title all-time.
2022 NCAA RIFLE CHAMPIONSHIPS SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (Mountain Time)
Friday, March 11, Smallbore, Cadet Gym Rifle Range
9:15 am – Relay 1
12:00 pm – Relay 2
2:45 pm – Relay 3
5:30 pm – Individual smallbore finals
Saturday, March 12, Air Rifle, Clune Arena
9:15 am – Relay 1
11:15 am – Relay 2
1:30 pm – Individual air rifle finals
Awards: upon completion of finals