Kentucky Rifle wins the 2021 NCAA Championship


Mary Tucker. UK Rifle v Akron. Photo by Hannah Phillips | UK Athletics

Braden Ramsey

Big Blue Nation is a little distraught with the conclusion of the Men’s Basketball season much earlier than normal, but it has reason to celebrate today.

Kentucky’s rifle program, ranked No. 1 in the nation throughout much of the season, brought home its third national championship on Saturday afternoon. UK put up an aggregate total of 4731 between the smallbore and air rifle segments to sit atop the leaderboard.

The Cats, who entered the event slotted at No. 2 in the country, also won the NCAA title in 2011 and 2018, and had finished as runner-up six times.

“This is a really big deal for this team. We have been going at it for two years now and this was long overdue for us,” Upcoming Olympic participant Mary Tucker said post-awards ceremony. “We all kind of knew that we were going to do good. We went into the match confident and came out on top.”

Tucker was the tournament’s top overall performer, scoring 1190 aggregated points out of a possible 1200. She posted the highest smallbore total (594) in regular competition, and fired a 463.3 in the 45-shot smallbore finale to notch her first individual NCAA championship. In the process, she became just the second Kentucky athlete (Ethan Settlemires, 2011) to claim the smallbore title and fifth ever Wildcat to claim victory in an individual NCAA event.

“Obviously Mary had an outstanding day. We are all very happy for her… [she] earned this honor,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said after day one of play, according to the university. “As a team, we had a good day… I was proud of how they fought in the range and gave it their all.”

Tucker then doubled her individual championship total early this evening, taking first in the air rifle portion of competition as well. She and fellow 2021 Olympian Will Shaner battled for first, with a deadly precise 10.9 shot pushing Tucker over her comrade in the final trigger pull of the event.

“Will and I are pretty lucky because we do shoot on the same team, so every Tuesday we shoot a final just like that against each other,” Tucker said. “There have been numerous times where the same thing has happened, and then there’s also times where he has done that to me… you never really know which one of us is going to get it, but it was great to see that the top two were going to Kentucky no matter what.” 

In addition to second in air rifle, Shaner snagged fifth overall in regular competition by scoring 1184 total points. Richard Clark also achieved a top-ten overall finish (eighth) for the Cats, recording 1179 points.

Mullins made sure to recognize the trio of Clark, Hailee Sigmon and Jaden Thompson for their contributions to the victory. They don’t always receive the publicity of Tucker and Shaner, but are no less important to the squad.

“They performed fabulous… it was a team win. You couldn’t say it any simpler,” he said after the awards ceremony. “It wasn’t like one person was gonna do it… [I’m] really proud of them.”

TCU (4722), Ole Miss (4710), West Virginia (4704) and Alaska Fairbanks (4682) rounded out the championship top five.

The full list of Kentucky results can be seen below:


MARY TUCKER: Smallbore – 594 (1st Overall); Air Rifle – 596 (4th); Aggregate – 1190 (1st)

WILL SHANER: Smallbore – 587 (8th); Air Rifle – 597 (3rd); Aggregate – 1184 (5th)

RICHARD CLARK: Smallbore – 585 (11th); Air Rifle – 594 (11th); Aggregate – 1179 (8th)

HAILEE SIGMON: Smallbore – 586 (10th); Air Rifle – 587 (29th); Aggregate* – 1173

JADEN THOMPSON: Smallbore – 576 (34th); Air Rifle – 592 (16th); Aggregate* – 1168

*Only the top-ten aggregate finishes were listed.


SMALLBORE: First – 2352 (Second: TCU – 2342)

AIR RIFLE: Second – 2379 (First: TCU – 2380)


SMALLBORE: Mary Tucker – First (463.3)

AIR RIFLE: Mary Tucker – First (249.4); Will Shaner – Second (248.7)