Kentucky posts an impressive 4731 team score behind 1195 aggregate from Mary Tucker
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sophomore Mary Tucker scored a career-high and NCAA record tying 597 in smallbore, kicking off what was a very successful Saturday for the No. 2 University of Kentucky rifle team as it hosted an NCAA Qualifier with Morehead State inside the UK Rifle Range.
Kentucky posted an overall team score of 4731 Saturday, earning a 2350 in smallbore and 2381 in air rifle. It was Tucker that stole the show again, tying the NCAA record in smallbore, which is also the highest smallbore mark of the season nationwide. Tucker finished the match with a 598 in air rifle for an aggregate of 1195, which ties her school record for highest aggregate. She also posted a 1195 earlier this season at the Kentucky Long Rifle Match. Of the nine NCAA smallbore scores of 594 or higher this season, Tucker owns four of them.
“I thought we performed very well as a team today,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said. “Wow, is all I can say about Mary and Will. Having two athletes break 1190 was awesome. I was so happy to see them both above that mark. Overall, I feel we recovered well during our struggles and made some good shots when we needed them to stay on track with what we are trying to do. I was very proud in the manner in which the whole team battled for their points today. I think we saw some really special things today and have some other things to work on to get the whole group to where they want to be. Looking forward to another week of training ahead.”
Saturday's NCAA qualifying score is the last factor 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 – 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 4735 at Murray State on November 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. Entering the weekend, UK was second in the NCAA qualifying standings. The full field for the 2021 NCAA Rifle Championships will be announced Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 3 p.m. ET on NCAA.com. The NCAA Championships will be March 12-13, inside Converse Hall in Columbus, Ohio.
Between relays Saturday, the UK rifle program celebrated Senior Day for seniors Hailee Sigmon and Mason Joachim. Both athletes have had great careers since arriving in Lexington, including helping the 2019-20 team win both the GARC regular-season and tournament championships. Their performances last season also helped UK to an undefeated regular season and the top seed heading into the 2020 NCAA Championships, which were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This season, Sigmon is averaging 578.222 in smallbore and 588.25 in air rifle for an aggregate of 1166.472. Joachim is averaging 569.714 in smallbore and 575.667 in air rifle for an aggregate of 1145.381.
Tucker was not the only Wildcat that shined Saturday as several others posted impressive performances. Junior Will Shaner scored a 594 in smallbore and 597 in air rifle for an aggregate of 191, while sophomore Jaden Thompson scored a 580 in smallbore, 593 in air rifle and an aggregate of 173. Junior Richard Clark posted a 579 in smallbore and 589 in air rifle, while Sigmon ended the first UK relay with a 576 in smallbore and 593 in air rifle.
In the second relay, Mitchell Nelson led the way for UK shotting a 582 in smallbore and 586 in air rifle for a 1168 aggregate. Emmie Sellers earned a 570 in smallbore and 591 in air rifle for a 1161 aggregate, while Mason Hamilton posted a 567 in smallbore and 581 in air rifle. Joachim posted a 568 in smallbore and 581 in air rifle.
Postseason competition will continue next weekend for Kentucky as it competes in the annual GARC Championships, which will be held Feb. 27-28.