NCAA Rifle Championships Begin Friday for Kentucky Rifle

NCAA Rifle Championships Begin Friday for Kentucky Rifle

by Evan Crane

LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the 30th time in program history the University of Kentucky rifle team will compete at the NCAA Rifle Championships as the Wildcats are set to begin the 2024 Championships this weekend inside West Virginia University’s WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, West Virginia.

The national event will begin Friday with smallbore and conclude Saturday with air rifle competition. An individual final in each discipline will conclude each day of competition. Action both days will be spread across two relays with the first relay both days starting at approx. 9 a.m. ET. A NCAA.com live stream of competition will be available online Friday and Saturday along with live targets and a NCAA Scorecard.

“We are excited to get to Morgantown and begin the championships,” said head coach Harry Mullins. “The team has worked very, very hard this season to qualify for NCAAs and I know they are ready to compete hard for their team. This has been an amazing group to be around and hopefully we can have a good weekend to cap off what has been a great season. We appreciate all the support from Big Blue Nation all season long.”

Kentucky, which qualified fourth for the eight-team event, has won the national title four times – 2011, 2018, 2021 and 2022 – with six runner-up finishes. Last year, UK finished third overall marking the fourth time in the last five championships UK has finished on the podium for event. That does not include the 2020 Championship, which was canceled due to COVID-19. UK, which was hosting the national event that year, was undefeated and seeded No. 1 overall before the event was canceled. Overall, UK has 22 top-five finishes at the NCAA Championships, including six runner-up honors.

UK qualified for the event thanks to a strong NCAA qualifying score, which was the last factor determining the field for the 2024 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 – was recorded and then added to each team’s NCAA qualifier score. The teams with the eight highest combined scores qualified for the NCAA Championship.

UK’s three scores counted as part of its NCAA Qualifying score are its 4745 in Alaska, an impressive 4732 fired at Army and its 4727 vs. Morehead State in the season opener. Adding UK’s 4730 qualifying score, UK’s total for NCAA selection was 9464.67, which seeded the Wildcats fourth. WVU is seeded first at 9500.33 with TCU second, Air Force third and Alaska Fairbanks fifth. Ole Miss, Navy and Nebraska conclude the eight-team field.

Last time out Kentucky had a great showing at the Great America Rifle Conference Championships, finishing second overall as a team with several incredible individual performances. As a team, UK posted a 4737 score, which was its second best of the season. Freshman Braden Peiser capped off a dominant weekend in the range by earning the GARC Air Rifle Individual Gold Medal, finishing the weekend as the top overall individual performer.

Peiser, fifth-year senior Emmie Sellers and sophomore Sofia Ceccarello all made the air rifle individual final, but it was Peiser that stole the show. The rookie was on target the entire final, finishing with a score of 253.4, which was 3.4 points better than the second-place finisher. Sellers finished the individual final in sixth, while Ceccarello earned a fifth-place finish.

The gold medal was the finishing touch to an incredible weekend for Peiser, who set a career high and new range record in smallbore with a 597 score Saturday. Peiser was the top individual performer of the event, earning a new career-best aggregate score of 1194 after earning 597s in both disciplines. On top of finishing with the top smallbore score of the weekend, he was tied for sixth for the top air rifle score. Sellers had the 10th-best aggregate score of the weekend at 1182. Her 599 air rifle score was the second-best of the championships.

At the GARCs, Kentucky posted a 2387 as a team in air rifle, which was its second-best air rifle team score of the season, and 2350 in smallbore, which was its third-best smallbore team score the season.

Overall this season, UK is averaging a 2341.92 in smallbore and 2381.08 in air rifle for a season aggregate average of 4723.00. Ceccarello leads Kentucky this season in both smallbore average and air rifle average. She is averaging a 587.538 in smallbore and 597.769 in air rifle for an aggregate average of 1185.307. She has posted five 599 scores in air rifle this season. Peiser is earning a 584.462 in smallbore and 593.846 in air rifle for a 1178.308 aggregate. Sellers and fellow fifth-year senior Jaden Thompson are right behind him and having good seasons. Sellers is earning 584 in smallbore and 594.154 in air rifle for a 1178.154 aggregate average, while Thompson is posting a 582 average in smallbore and 592.923 in air rifle for a 1174.923 aggregate average. Junior Allison Buesseler and sophomore Martin Voss will complete the traveling roster for Kentucky this weekend. Buesseler is earning a 579.308 in smallbore and 592.385 in air rifle for a 1171.693 aggregate average, while Voss is posting a 581.692 in smallbore and 589.769 in air rifle for a 1171.461 aggregate.

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

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