By Lindsay Travis
They say that football is a game of inches, but rifle is a game of millimeters. The bull’s-eye is about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
“Imagine taking the SATs for four and a half hours and you have to get every question right. That’s the pressure,” said head coach and UK alumnus Harry Mullins. “The margin of error is very, very small.”
In rifle, there are two events: smallbore and air rifle. In smallbore, athletes use a .22 caliber rifle to shoot at a target 50 feet away. They shoot 20 shots prone (which is lying down), 20 shots standing and 20 shots kneeling. The best possible score in each of these positions is 200. Each shot is worth 10 points.
“For us, a good prone score is 199-200, a good standing score is 192s or higher, and a good kneeling score is probably in the mid to low 190s,” Mullins said. “We’re more of a numbers-driven sport. We’re always trying to beat our last big number or our last record. I don’t ever want them to get comfortable.“
After a 30-minute break, athletes use a .177 caliber air rifle to shoot 60 shots at 10 meters standing. A perfect score is 600. Senior Henri Junghänel shot an impressive 594 in Sunday’s match against Army. Fellow seniors Heather Greathouse and Stacy Wheatley also shot above 590 in Sunday’s competition.
“A big part of (training) is building confidence in the athletes — teaching them to believe and have faith that what they’re doing is right and to trust themselves in their decision-making processes,” Mullins said.
Junghänel shot a program-best 592 in smallbore against Army, surpassing his previous personal collegiate and program-best of 590. Later in the morning, Junghänel’s 594 in air rifle brought his aggregate total to 1186, also a new program record.
“It’s a great sport to challenge your concentration. You have to be focused for a long time. You work on the highest level of your physics and your psychology,” Junghänel said.
The Cats’ total aggregate score of 4716 set a new program best. The team also finished smallbore with a season high of 2348 from freshman Connor Davis, Greathouse, Wheatley, Junghänel and juniors Aaron and Emily Holsopple.
UK is hoping to repeat as national champions after defeating West Virginia by three points for last year’s title.
“Our overall goal this year is to get another win at the NCAAs. That would be pretty awesome to do that twice in the time that most of us are here,” said senior Katie Fretts.
The Cats are 3-0 on the season. Their next match is at home Sunday versus Tennessee-Martin.