Kentucky rifle defeats West Virginia to earn share of conference title

Scott Clarke

The No. 2 Kentucky rifle team won in come-from-behind fashion at No. 4 West Virginia on Saturday, earning a share of the Great American Rifle Conference Regular-Season Championship.

This is the third straight season that the Wildcats have earned at least a share of the conference regular-season title, as well as the first time Kentucky has earned back-to-back-to-back titles since 2011 to 2013. UK shares the title in 2022 with WVU and Ole Miss.

Kentucky totaled a score of 2325 in smallbore and 2377 in air rifle for a total aggregate score of 4702. West Virginia led Kentucky after smallbore with a 2329 in the discipline but fell short of UK’s air rifle total with a 2371 for an aggregate of 4700.

Kentucky senior Will Shaner was the overall top performer at the event, scoring a 589 in smallbore and 597 in air rifle for a 1186 aggregate. Senior Richard Clark was third overall with a 585 in smallbore and 595 in air rifle. Junior Mary Tucker scored a 582 in smallbore and 595 in air rifle, while freshman Allison Buesseler had a good day as well, with a 581 in smallbore and 590 in air rifle for a 1171 aggregate.

Sophomores Mason Hamilton, Jaden Thompson and Emmie Sellers all had good performances as well. Hamilton participated in smallbore, scored a 569 in the discipline and added a 585 in air rifle. Thompson shot a 565 in smallbore and a strong 594 in air rifle, while Sellers scored a 575 in smallbore and 591 in air rifle. For UK’s two other freshmen, they performed well in their first match at WVU with Tori Kopelen scoring a 578 in smallbore and 588 in air rifle, while Kayla Kalenza scored a 566 in smallbore and 585 in air rifle. Senior Mitchell Nelson scored a 573 in smallbore and 575 in air rifle.

“The final score may not have been as high as we have been scoring, but I am just as proud today because the team found a way to dig deep and persevere when we needed it the most,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said. “West Virginia is a very good team and a tough place to go get a win, but our team found a way today and that makes me proud. To win a share of three straight GARC Regular-Season Championships is special and not something we will take lightly. Proud today, but we have more work to do if we want to end this season strong.”

Kentucky will return to action next Saturday, Feb. 19 inside the Barker Hall Rifle Range as it hosts a NCAA Qualifier with Morehead State. UK will also honor its three seniors at the match. Following the match, UK will travel to West Point, New York for the GARC Championships, which will be Feb. 25-26.