Kentucky rifle team earns nation’s top spot in final coach’s association listing
LEXINGTON, Ky. – It was a flawless season for the University of Kentucky rifle team, finishing the year undefeated and winning both the Great America Rifle Conference regular-season and tournament championships. The final accomplishment came Thursday as the Wildcats finished the season ranked No. 1 in the final Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association Top 20 ranking.
The two-time national champions were the top qualifier for the 2020 NCAA Rifle Championships, which were cancelled due to the Covid-19 public health threat. The Wildcats finished the regular season with a perfect 15-0 record, winning the GARC regular-season championship for the first time since 2013 and the GARC Tournament championship for the first time since 2009. It’s the first time the Wildcats have won both in the same year since 2009 as well.
During the season, Kentucky bested its previous school-record aggregate score of 4719 a total of four times, including the nation’s best overall score during the year of 4734 at Army on Jan. 19. UK also surpassed the previous school record with a 4724 vs. Memphis at home on Feb. 1 followed by back-to-back 4723s in a win at West Virginia on Feb. 15 and during the NCAA Qualifier in Lexington on Feb. 22.
UK shined in both disciplines during the year, averaging a 2334.54 in smallbore and 2377.23 in air rifle for a team aggregate average of 4711.77. All told, four of the best nine smallbore team scores in the nation this season were recorded by the Wildcats, who scored 2342 or better four times – more than any other team in the nation. The Wildcats’ best air rifle team score was a 2390, which was the best in the nation this season. UK scored 2380 or better in air rifle six times while the rest of the nation combined for just five scores of 2380 or better in air rifle.
Overall, UK not only had the highest team aggregate score in the nation this season of 4734 but scored above a 4715 an impressive six times while the rest of the nation combined to score over 4715 eight times. In fact, Kentucky had four scores of 4720 or better this season while there was only one other team in the country to eclipse the 4720 mark.
Individually, the Wildcats were paced by five All-America performers, including Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association Shooter and Freshman of the Year, Mary Tucker, who was All-America combined first team by the CRCA and a smallbore, air rifle and combined All-GARC performer. Sophomore Will Shaner was also All-America first team by the CRCA and a smallbore, air rifle and combined All-GARC performer while fellow sophomore Ruby Gomes was All-GARC second team in air rifle and a second-team Collegiate All-American in the discipline. Junior Hailee Sigmon was a second-team Collegiate All-America honoree in smallbore and air rifle, while sophomore Richard Clark was a honorable mention Collegiate All-American in air rifle.
Tucker and Shaner, who each qualified for the four-member Team USA Air Rifle Olympic Team earlier this year, combined to post eight of the nine smallbore scores of 593 or better this season while they also combined to earn six of the eight 599s that were scored in air rifle this season. Tucker and Shaner were the only two NCAA shooters to post an aggregate score of 1190 or better this season, with Tucker doing it seven times while Shaner did it twice.