Wildcats earned school-record team score of 4735 last weekend at Murray State
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Days after posting a school-record team score of 4735 in its win at Murray State, the University of Kentucky rifle team has ascended to the top of the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association Top 20 rankings, it was announced Tuesday morning.
“It is a great honor to have this ranking during the season,” said UK head coach Harry Mullins. “I am excited to see the team get rewarded after a good weekend. However, we have to stay focused on our plan regardless of where that puts us in the rankings.”
In its first road match of the 2020-21 season last weekend, Kentucky (5-0) performed well in the win at Murray State, who moved up the rankings to No. 6. UK’s team score last Saturday of 4735, which was one better than its previous school record score of 4734 secured last season at Army, included a school-record 2358 smallbore team score and a season-high 2377 air rifle team score.
The CRCA Top 20 is built in the early stages of the season based on each team’s top performance each week with the Wildcats’ 4735 last week being the top in the nation. The high score is also the best in the nation so far this season. The 2358 smallbore team score is the second highest in the nation this season behind Ole Miss earning a 2361 vs. Murray State on Oct. 11. The Wildcats have earned the two highest air rifle team scores in the nation this season with a 2369 vs. NC State on Oct. 31 and the 2377 last weekend.
Individually, the Wildcats have been paced by junior Will Shaner and sophomore Mary Tucker, who have each put together strong starts to the season. In smallbore, there have been seven individual scores of 590 or better this season nationally with Shaner and Tucker each earning two of those high marks. Shaner posted a career-best 595 in smallbore last weekend at Murray, which is the highest smallbore score in the nation this season. The two stars have been just as impressive in air rifle, as Tucker owns the only two 599 scores in the nation this season while Shaner is one of three athletes nationally to score 598 or better.
Overall, the entire UK roster has performed well in the two in-person matches this season. Junior Richard Clark is averaging 582.5 in smallbore and 585 in air rifle, while fellow junior Mitchell Nelson has a season average of 578 in smallbore and 583 in air rifle. Sophomore Emmie Sellers and Jaden Thompson are having strong seasons with Sellers averaging 573 in smallbore and 587 in air rifle while Thompson has the third highest air rifle average on the team at 589 with a 570.5 in smallbore. Senior Hailee Sigmon has the fourth highest smallbore average on the team at 581.5 along with a 575 in air rifle. Sophomore Mason Hamilton is averaging a 573.5 in smallbore and 578 in air rifle, while senior Mason Joachim is earning a 572 average in smallbore and 579 in air rifle.
The match at Murray State was only the second in-person match for the Wildcats this season after the first two matches of the year were held virtually due to COVID-19 concerns. It should be noted that Kentucky would have more team and individual high marks in the NCAA listings, but its two virtual matches do not count towards NCAA qualifying.
Kentucky (5-0) will be back in action this weekend when it hosts the annual Kentucky Long Rifle Match inside the Barker Hall Rifle Range. Both Morehead State and Murray State will be on campus to compete against the Wildcats. The match brings together the three NCAA Division I rifle programs from the Commonwealth as Kentucky is the only state in the country with three collegiate teams.
The match will utilize a unique format aggregating the scores from seven shooters, instead of the five designated squad members for smallbore and air rifle commonly used within NCAA competition. The scores from the five squad designees will still be recorded from this match for NCAA qualifying purposes.
The winning team will be awarded the "Kentucky Long Rifle" trophy, which has been hand engraved to honor all the teams involved.