The Kentucky rifle team has qualified for the NCAA Rifle Championships for the 27th time in program history. as the Wildcats were one of eight teams selected to compete in the national event from March 12-13 at Converse Hall in Columbus, Ohio.
Kentucky, which is currently ranked second nationally and were regular-season Great American Rifle Conference Co-Championship, has won the national title twice – 2011 and 2018 – with six runner-up finishes.
“It is always exciting to receive a spot in the championships,” said head coach Harry Mullins via press release. “I feel this team has worked really hard this year to get to this point. We are excited that we had the opportunity to compete this year under the circumstances. I am looking forward to seeing the athletes compete at this level.”
Last Saturday’s NCAA qualifying score was the last factor in determining the field for the 2021 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 already recorded prior to last weekend. The NCAA qualifier score was then added to that average. Kentucky along with Air Force, Alaska Fairbanks, Memphis, Nebraska, Ole Miss, TCU and West Virginia, had the eight highest combined scores, thus qualifying for the NCAA Championship.
Kentucky’s three scores it counted as part of its NCAA Qualifying score were its school-record 4735 at Murray State on Nov. 7, an impressive 4734 fired vs. Nebraska inside the UK Rifle Range on Jan. 22 and its 4713 team scored at Ole Miss on Jan. 18. Those three scores averaged together for a 4724.33, plus UK’s 4731 NCAA qualifying mark last week gave UK a total mark of 9458.33. That total is the highest NCAA qualifying mark in the nation.
Sophomore Mary Tucker leads Kentucky this season by averaging a 592.3 in smallbore, 598 in air rifle and 1190.3 aggregate. Junior Will Shaner is averaging a 589.5 in smallbore, 596.3 in air rifle and 1185.8 aggregate. Tucker and Shaner are two of three shooters in the nation to score 595 in smallbore this season, while Tucker is one of three shooters with a perfect 600 in air rifle this year.
Junior Richard Clark is averaging a 581.6 in smallbore, 589.8 in air rifle and 1171.4 overall, while junior Mitchell Nelson is averaging 580 in smallbore and 586 in air rifle. Seniors Hailee Sigmon and Mason Hamilton are averaging 1166.472 and 1145.381, respectively. Sophomores Jaden Thompson and Emmie Sellers are having good seasons with aggregate averages of 1167.9 and 1157.931, respectively. Sophomore Mason Hamilton is averaging a 1149.403 aggregate this season.
Kentucky’s last event prior to the national championships is the annual GARC Championships, which will be held virtually Saturday and Sunday.