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UK rifle fell to Alaska-Fairbanks on Sunday, 4695-4689. (Will Kindred, UK Athletics) UK rifle fell to Alaska-Fairbanks on Sunday, 4695-4689. (Will Kindred, UK Athletics)
On Thursday, the top-ranked Kentucky rifle team departed for Fairbanks, Ala., where the Wildcats will compete in two No. 1 vs. No. 2 matches with Alaska-Fairbanks on Saturday and Sunday. To help the Big Blue Nation keep up with their trip, student-athletes from the team will take turns blogging about their voyage. To close it out, Sonya May looks back on Sunday's match and describes the trip home.

By Sonya May

Still not completely adjusted to four-hour time difference, I woke up early this morning and did some homework until my roommate, Heather (Kirby), woke up. I spent the morning working and packing to head back to Kentucky.

Packing was a little bit of a challenge. Our bags coming up here were already stuffed with warm clothes and the souvenirs we all acquired just made it that much more difficult, but we managed to fit it all in.

Once I finished packing I headed downstairs for breakfast at the hotel. We all ate together as a team since we shot as one relay rather two like Sunday. Post-breakfast we headed over to the range a little earlier than yesterday, making sure we were prepared for the match in hopes of performing better than Saturday.

With all five counters for each team competing in the first relay, the ending was intense as both teams were neck and neck set to finish at the same time. Once I finished with air rifle, I sat with my team anxiously watching the last few wrap up, hoping the match would fall our way.

The results of the match didn't turn out as we had liked but there were positives to take out of Sunday's match. Our efforts were definitely better than the day before. All of us learned something from how we performed yesterday and we used that to our advantage in order to close the point gap by 25 and finish just six points behind Alaska today.

After we finished packing up our equipment we listened to a recommendation from some members of the Alaska team and headed to Loose Moose Cafe for lunch. The local burger joint featured some interesting meals, including buffalo burgers, moose chili and reindeer steak sandwiches.

Coach Mullins used the opportunity at lunch to talk to us about today, recapping how he was proud of us although we didn't come away with the win. He definitely wanted to make sure that we were all using this experience to grow and learn together.

During lunch everybody wasn't too hung up on the loss, we were still able to giggle and have fun while enjoying our last hours in Alaska together.

After lunch, we headed to the airport with our cars stuffed full of equipment. The views on the drives around here are amazing, so I tried to soak it in one last time during our final car ride.

We got to the airport a little early to make sure all our equipment was checked and through security. With the extra time, almost everyone took the opportunity to do some last-minute souvenir shopping at the gift shop in the airport, buying gifts and personal mementos to remember the trip.  

We're on our flight from Fairbanks to Seattle as I write this and we have a long journey ahead of us before we get back home. The total trip time is about 15 hours through the night so hopefully we'll be able to get some sleep and catch up on some homework during the flights.

Now that the trip is coming to a close, I look back at how much fun I had and how fortunate I am to have been a part of it.

This was the biggest trip of the year in my opinion and I was pretty stoked when I found out I was going to be on the traveling squad for it. I must admit though, when I stepped out of the airport on Thursday night and it was negative-23 degrees, I was rethinking my excitement for the trip. I adapted to the cold though and it all got better because Alaska is one of the prettiest places I've ever been.

From going to North Pole, Alaska, to seeing the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, I really enjoyed getting to bond with my teammates and make these memories with them as we explored the wonder of Alaska.

We obviously would have liked to win both matches but the two losses did not ruin our trip. This was a great experience and we still have a long season ahead to prepare for the postseason.

Catching up on sleep is going to be a challenge when we get back as we will all be jetlagged, and lots of us are returning to classes and makeup exams. Fortunately, everyone is leaving for Thanksgiving during this week, so it will be a nice break before we head out to Winter Air Gun in Colorado.

As I look back now, I can't help but think about how blessed I am to have been able to come on this trip and to be able to shoot for the University of Kentucky Rifle Team, I don't think I could have asked for much more in my first semester of college.

The Kentucky rifle team will take on Alaska-Fairbanks at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday after falling 4702-4671 on Saturday. (Will Kindred, UK Athletics) The Kentucky rifle team will take on Alaska-Fairbanks at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday after falling 4702-4671 on Saturday. (Will Kindred, UK Athletics)
On Thursday, the top-ranked Kentucky rifle team departed for Fairbanks, Ala., where the Wildcats will compete in two No. 1 vs. No. 2 matches with Alaska-Fairbanks on Saturday and Sunday. To help the Big Blue Nation keep up with their trip, student-athletes from the team will take turns blogging about their voyage. Today, senior Emily Holsopple discusses lessons learned from UK's Saturday loss.

By Emily Holsopple

The day started like a typical morning of a road match. I woke up at 6 a.m., and got ready like any normal day, of course the only difference being I put my long johns on and bundled up in many layers to prepare to venture out in the cold.

The four of us shooting the first relay, Connor (Davis), Heather (Kirby), Sonya (May) and I, met downstairs in the hotel for the breakfast buffet to eat before we headed to the range.

Following breakfast we all hopped in the cars to head to the range around 7:40 a.m., hoping to get to the range about an hour before the match. We may have accidentally taken a bit of a detour because we took the wrong road but we made it there with more than enough time to prepare.

With seven of us traveling, we split up into two relays with four on the first and three on the second. The relay was different, normally we have six or seven lined up together competing. You could tell a difference with only four of us there but it was something we quickly forgot about.

We were a little rusty and got off to a somewhat rocky start. We were coming off a two-day break and tired from all the travel and I don't think we were as mentally prepared as we could have been but that's a lesson we had to learn the hard way today. It's a valuable lesson for us to learn at this point in the year, if we take it in stride and grow on in it then it will be very beneficial for us down the road.

While we didn't put up the overall numbers we were looking for today there were still some definite bright spots. The freshmen did a great job, for it being the second road matches of their careers; they really put together some strong performances and didn't get caught up in the early struggles. Kirby and Sonya are both still young and learning but I was really proud of their efforts today.

With the first relay complete and the second relay preparing, we took suggestions from members of the Alaska-Fairbanks team about where to go to lunch and eventually journeyed to a local restaurant called Ivory Jack's. The trip to the hole-in-the-wall led to some amazing views as we weaved in and out of the mountains north of Fairbanks. As we walked out of the local spot it was fascinating to see a group pull up to the restaurant on snowmobiles.

We headed back to the range to support the second relay and the three of them really worked hard to put together some good numbers. Aaron (Holsopple) had a really good performance, his 581 in smallbore bumped up our aggregate and (Elijah) Ellis's 588 in air rifle also gave our score a boost.

The results obviously weren't what we had planned for, but we held together well today when things went south. It could have gone a lot worse.

Honestly, we've now had one bad day this year... It was bound to happen. But we must take it in stride, learn from it and use what we learned to try to prevent it from happening again.

There's a lesson to be learned from today. It kind of opened our eyes a little bit and I think we can go forward with what we learned. It's not all rainbows and butterflies from here on out; it's hard work and it's back to working hard on Sunday.

The Kentucky rifle team visited the Trans-Alaska Pipeline on Friday. (Will Kindred, UK Athletics) The Kentucky rifle team visited the Trans-Alaska Pipeline on Friday. (Will Kindred, UK Athletics)
On Thursday, the top-ranked Kentucky rifle team departed for Fairbanks, Ala., where the Wildcats will compete in two No. 1 vs. No. 2 matches with Alaska-Fairbanks on Saturday and Sunday. To help the Big Blue Nation keep up with their trip, student-athletes from the team will take turns blogging about their voyage. Today, sophomore Connor Davis describes a tourist-activity-filled Friday.

By Connor Davis

Not having adapted to the four-hour time change, our first morning in Alaska came early. Being used to Eastern Time I woke up around 3:30 a.m., luckily I managed to fall back asleep until around 7.

We all met downstairs at 8 for our team breakfast and ate before we started our full day of tourist activities and exploring the area.

We opened the day by heading a few miles out of town to the see part of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The pipeline runs from the north shore of Alaska at Prudhoe Bay to Valdez in southern Alaska. It was neat to see how it weaves through the mountains and frontier of Alaska.

Driving around up here is a very different experience. A layer of snow covers most of the roads but it doesn't seem to affect any of the drivers. The views driving out of Fairbanks are impressive, with snow-covered trees followed by mountain ranges in the distance.

After the pipeline we went to the University of Alaska Museum of the North on campus. The museum had a lot of interesting items on the history of Alaska. I was most fascinated by the exhibit showcasing the progression of the weapons Alaskans have used for whale hunting. It was wild to see how whale hunters overcame the challenges before the technology and tools we have today existed.

Following the museum we headed to North Pole, Alaska, to check out the Christmas themed town. All the local businesses in the North Pole were decorated with Christmas decor in some fashion.

To get the full effect of the North Pole, we stopped by the Santa Claus House. As we arrived we were greeted by reindeer to the side of the building and proceeded to go inside and buy some gifts for friends and family. Santa Claus was there and not only admitted to being a Kentucky fan but also mentioned our national championship in 2011.

We listened to Aaron Holsopple's lunch recommendation and went with Chinese restaurant Pagoda in the North Pole. Aaron did not let us down, the restaurant featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" with Guy Fieri was delicious. (Elijah) Ellis and Coach Mullins were the only ones able to finish their plates and they deserve some sort of award for that. The portions were huge.

On the way back from the North Pole we stopped by The Great Alaskan Bowl Company and the Alaska Raw Fur Company to check out a few local shops. It was crazy to see all the animal furs; I would have loved to have been able to take one home with me.

Of course we finished the night by doing the non-tourist thing and going to see "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." I won't ruin the movie for any of you with spoilers but we all enjoyed it to say the least.

I'm looking forward to Saturday. Emily (Holsopple), Heather (Kirby), Sonya (May) and I will be competing in the first relay, while Aaron, Ellis and Cody (Manning) will shoot in the second relay. I've been pleased with how we've competed to this point in the season and I'm looking forward to seeing if it carries into a big match on the road.

I plan to stay for the second relay to see Aaron, Ellis and Cody. Normally you don't stick around because you'll go get lunch with family or something but I'd like to come back tomorrow after lunch and support the guys.

The trip has been fun so far, Coach Mullins has made sure to show us around. He's been here so many times for matches in the past that he seems to know everything about it.

While we spent today having fun and being tourists, the reason we're here is to compete and I'm ready to hit the range.

The Kentucky rifle team arrived in Alaska on Thursday. (Will Kindred, UK Athletics) The Kentucky rifle team arrived in Alaska on Thursday. (Will Kindred, UK Athletics)
On Thursday, the top-ranked Kentucky rifle team departed for Fairbanks, Ala., where the Wildcats will compete in two No. 1 vs. No. 2 matches with Alaska-Fairbanks on Saturday and Sunday. To help the Big Blue Nation keep up with their trip, student-athletes from the team will take turns blogging about their voyage. First up is junior Cody Manning.

By Cody Manning

The day started early; it seems like any time we fly somewhere we always leave at the earliest of hours. I set three alarms to make sure I got up on time, got up at 4 a.m. ET, was able to take a quick shower, get a banana and race out the door. Some of my teammates picked me up, we got to the range and from there we loaded up on the bus and headed to the airport. That's where our journey began. Probably the most extreme trek I've done since I've been on the team.

This is my first time to Alaska and to take part in any of kind of travel is always great because we have such a fun team. The trips are great opportunities for us to bond and come together as a team.

Flying out of Lexington is pretty typical for us so we've got that whole process down. Of course I managed to complicate it by leaving my duffle bag at security. Everyone made sure I didn't live that one down. The flight to Atlanta was pretty simple. Afterwards we had just enough time to grab a snack and board our first long flight from Atlanta to Seattle.

That second flight was long and we had to find stuff to do to keep occupied. I spent a majority of my time watching a movie with Connor (Davis). We watched "World War Z" with Brad Pitt.

It was my first time in the Seattle airport. Most airports tend to get meshed together in your memory but I'll definitely remember the task of getting to our next gate today in Seattle. We had to change terminal trains four or five times before finally getting to our terminal and I know I wouldn't have ever figured it out if I wasn't with the team.

Finally getting on that last plane for that last four-hour plane trip to Fairbanks, at that point it became a little more real that I was actually going to Alaska. It's pretty neat to look out your window and see the window starting to freeze up on the outside and see snow-covered ground below.

The last stint was probably the toughest because I had already watched my movie, I had already done the homework that I wanted to accomplish and then those last two hours on the trip were brutal. I had already slept and I was excited and just wanted to land.

In Alaska, we got down into the baggage claim, I added another layer, putting an extra sweater thinking that was going to be it, I'm not going to be cold. It's going to be negative-23 degrees but I'm going to warm. Then me and Connor step outside and it hits my face and It's just brutal. That weather just doesn't exist in Kentucky.

To illustrate how cold it is, the cars need to be plugged in to stay warm when parked, something I have never heard of.

Dinner, like any other team meal, was an experience; it's always a good time. Everyone was real tired after dinner because we've been up since 4 a.m., and now as I'm writing this it's around midnight back home. We're trying to stay awake to avoid jet lag. We're going to get ready for tomorrow which is going to be some time for us to just unwind and get acclimated to Alaska before we head into what we're really here for: our matches Saturday and Sunday.  

In regards to tomorrow, we don't know exactly what's on the schedule but I'm looking forward to it. There have been talks of curling, going to see the trans-Alaska pipeline or maybe go dog sledding. All the typical Alaskan adventures that you would hear of, typical Alaskan things that are atypical to Kentuckians. I look forward to it, I'm excited.

Being in Alaska is awesome, it's something that I would have never gotten to do if I wasn't on the rifle team and I think that's just one more benefit of being a student-athlete at Kentucky.

Rifle head coach Harry Mullins and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart chat at the rifle range. (UK Athletics) Rifle head coach Harry Mullins and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart chat at the rifle range. (UK Athletics)
Year in and year out Harry Mullins manages to field one of the nation's top rifle programs. He's been at Kentucky for going on 27 productive seasons and is responsible for building its rifle program into a perennial contender.

Then Mullins goes home at the end of each workday and tends to his real job: fatherhood.

During the season, both jobs become much more difficult, yet Mullins continues to have success in each. In season, Mullins spends more time at work and on the range with his athletes in addition to traveling to competitions. That time with his team means less with his wife and two children.

Now, many Division I coaches have families and children. Time away is a sacrifice that comes with the territory.

For both Mullins and his athletes, rifle season never truly ends. Currently, multiple UK shooters are competing abroad in international competitions as they continue to improve their skills and attempt to stay sharp for the upcoming season. Meanwhile, back home, Mullins is keeping tabs on his athletes and setting up his game plan for the 2013-14 season.

Ideally, Mullins would be traveling with his shooters.

"Typically I would be out there, but for family reasons and meetings here I wasn't able to stay at the nationals," said Mullins. "Typically I would be there for a lot of the matches."

Mullins takes seriously responsibilities he has as a father. And during the summer, he takes advantage of the additional spare time to be with his kids. His two children, Taylor (12) and Ethan (9), provide an escape from the job, but in several ways, he draws inspiration for his profession from the experiences with his kids.

Ethan is spending his summer much like most 9-year-old boys. He's playing baseball, going fishing with his dad and hanging out with friends. He leads what most would call a "normal life."

His sister Taylor does not.

Taylor is a special-needs child. She doesn't speak. She struggles to grasp concepts that other 12-year-old girls understand readily. She is essentially a 2-year-old in a 12-year-old's body. Taylor also suffers from epilepsy, experiencing anywhere from one to 10 seizures a day. Some are very small while others are of a greater magnitude.

Both children, despite their differences, manage to teach Mullins something new nearly every day.

When he gets to go check out one of Ethan's baseball games, Mullins' mind is never far off from his rifle team, even though the two sports have little in common.

"The crazy part about it is, when you experience something in your personal life, nine out of 10 times you relate it back," said Mullins. "A prime example is my son's little-league team. I've enjoyed watching them play, and I've learned so much from them.

"As I watch, I sit there and watch them go through those dynamics and I'm like, 'We need to do this with our team and we need to do that.' "

The lessons learned from Taylor have been abundant as well as she approaches her 13th birthday in July. As often as he can, Mullins takes advantage of the opportunities he has with his daughter. His goal this summer is very simple: take time.

"It's fun because she starts to grasp concepts more and more," said Mullins. "To celebrate the time with her to take the nice and pretty days to go to the park or to do things like that, I look forward to that."

But taking time isn't always easy, especially when it comes to Taylor. Sometimes that fishing trip with Ethan takes two years organize between balancing a hectic schedule between Mullins and his wife and finding someone who can watch over Taylor, which is a difficult task on its own.

It's not easy, Mullins will tell you. Life with Taylor is a challenge. Mullins will also tell you that Taylor is his "best buddy" and that she has taught him some of life's most valuable lessons, which makes that time completely gratifying.

"She probably is the epitome of unconditional love and faith and trust to where it doesn't matter what you do, she's still going to love you because you're her dad," said Mullins. "The smile that she has on her face kind of makes a lot of the rough stuff go away."

She helps Mullins keep everything in perspective. While there are others out there searching for the cure for cancer or trying to devise alternate energy sources, Taylor is trying to learn to dress herself, for example.

"It makes you appreciate life a little bit more on the tough days and realize that we have the ability to lead what we would consider a normal life and to embrace that," said Mullins. "The things she goes through weren't choices. It wasn't the result of poor choices. It's just the cards that nature dealt her and she tries to make the best out of it.

"As a caregiver, as her parent, you have to make the best of it. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'I can sit here and feel sorry for myself and bury my head in the sand, or accept it.' Not that you necessarily want to. You constantly fight to try to make things better, find cures, whatever you want to call it, to make her life the best that it can be under the conditions. It's kind of acclimating her to the world and the world to her, and then creating a world around her within means to lead somewhat of a fruitful life in her world.

"Learning from that, I think, in the day-to-day operations in the thing that you do, I've learned that you can go to bed mad, but you better not wake up mad. You've got to start the day with some positive motivation. You can let some things drag you down, but at the end of the day, you refill your tank and get back to it."

Mullins lives out that philosophy as each and every year his Wildcats have a chance to be special. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they win the national championship as they did in 2011 or fall just short with a runner-up finish like in 2013. Regardless of the result, it's not long after that Mullins is refueling, looking forward and putting a plan in place for the following season.

Those lessons are entirely applicable to the range. The only problem is getting them across to the athletes. Without having to deal with those challenges, it's much more difficult to appreciate the concepts that Mullins hopes to convey.

That will be Mullins' next challenge in 2013.

"If you are having a tough day in the classroom, you have to leave that outside the training facilities," said Mullins. "Sometimes, I actually get frustrated and I try not to tell them, 'Woe is me. I just spent the morning cleaning up and caring after Taylor. Your life is not that tough.' I can't compare myself to them, though. I'm 50 years old. But to get them to understand and grasp that you have to put things behind you, but learn from them so that in the future great things can be achieved."

That is Mullins' hope for his returning group of shooters who just missed out on a national championship last season. Kentucky will need to be able to move on from the disappointment of not cashing in while remembering the lessons they learned along the way.

If there's been one aspect of Taylor's life that has inspired Mullins the most, it's her determination to get what she wants. Often Taylor will approach one parent when she wants something, and if she doesn't get the desired answer, she'll move to the next one. That's one concept that she understands quite well.

"We always strive to get better. Sometimes the scoreboard goes in your favor," said Mullins. "Now we're not going to be happy when it's not, just like when Taylor is frustrated and does things, she's not happy, but trying to get her to understand.

"To learn from her, to have to back up sometimes and look at the problem from a different angle or different viewpoints that aren't exactly in the norm, that I definitely think has impacted me because I study her when she wants to get things."

It's a simple concept, but determination and motivation are two keys to success in sports and life every day. Mullins wants to get another national championship, but more importantly, he wants his athletes to give their best effort and be hard workers, because as a father, that's what he values most.

That is why each and every season Kentucky has a chance to be great: because a great man - and a great father - is leading the way.

The University of Kentucky celebrated its 146th May Commencement on Sunday. (photo by Mark Cornelison) The University of Kentucky celebrated its 146th May Commencement on Sunday. (photo by Mark Cornelison)
During the University of Kentucky's 146 May Commencement on Sunday, 49 UK student-athletes received degrees. Forty-seven earned undergraduate diplomas and two received graduate degrees.

(Note: Includes student-athletes who received degrees after their completing eligibility.)

Baseball
Thomas McCarthy
Zac Zellers (Will complete coursework this summer)

Football
Aaron Boyd
La'Rod King
Quentin McCord
Craig McIntosh
Kevin Mitchell
Matt Smith
Taylor Wyndham
(Note: 2012 seniors Mikie Benton, Gabe Correll, Gene McCaskill, Morgan Newton, Cartier Rice, Collins Ukwu, Steven Duff and Sam Simpson graduated previously.)

Gymnastics
Caitlyn Ciokajlo
Storey Morris
Whitney Rose

Men's basketball
Twany Beckham
Marquis Estill
Jon Hood
Jarrod Polson (Graduated in three years)
(Note: Jamal Mashburn also received an honorary doctorate of humanities.)

Men's golf
Joseph Barr

Men's soccer
Pedro Andreoni
Gabriel Conelian
Barry Rice

Men's swimming and diving
Jon Bullock
Jon Keltner
Ben Russell

Rifle
Heather Greathouse

Softball
Chanda Bell
Kara Dill (Graduate degree in exercise science)
Alice O'Brien
Erika Silence

Track and field
Katy Achtien
Keith Hayes
Ben Mason (Will complete coursework this summer)
Chelsea Oswald
Shiara Robinson
Josh Nadzam (Masters of social work)
Danielle Sampley
Rashaud Scott
Samantha Stenzel
Hiruni Wijayaratne
Megan Wright

Volleyball
No graduates this weekend, but seniors Ashley Frazier and Christine Hartmann had already graduated.

Women's basketball
A'dia Mathies
Crystal Riley

Women's golf
Megan Moir

Women's soccer
Natalie Horner
Brooke Keyes

Women's swimming and diving
Megan Eppler
Lindsay Lash
Mandy Myers
Sherrill Thompson

Women's tennis
Khristina Blajkevitch

Kentucky Sports Report (week of March 11)

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Men's basketball
- Kentucky went 1-1 on the week which included a critical upset of No. 9/11 Florida on Saturday.
- Freshman Archie Goodwin was sensational in leading the Cats with an average of 18.0 points, five rebounds and three steals in two games this week. Goodwin snatched a career-high four steals in the upset of the Gators and had a team-high 16 points.
- With the win over Florida, UK improves to 10-0 at home in Rupp Arena against ranked foes in the John Calipari era.
- The win also helped seal the No. 2 overall seed in the SEC Tournament. UK has won the tournament twice in Calipari's tenure.

Women's basketball
- Kentucky advanced to the SEC Championship game for the third time in four seasons before falling to Texas A&M.
- UK logged wins against Vanderbilt and No. 12 Georgia en route to making its title game appearance.
- UK outscored the Lady Dawgs 41-14 in the second half, holding them scoreless for the final 6:08 of the game, and 22.2 percent (14-of-63) shooting for the game.
- Senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) added 11 points and grabbed two steals which set a new UK career steals record with 310. The previous record was 309 set by Stacey Reed from 1991-95.

Rifle
- The Kentucky rifle team placed second at the NCAA Championships, shooting a 4670 to place runner-up for a second consecutive year.
- Senior Henri Junghänel placed second in individual smallbore, falling by .5 points to claim the silver medal.
- Freshman Connor Davis finished fourth individually in air rifle.
- Kentucky had six members named All-America, including Connor Davis, Heather Greathouse, Emily Holsopple, Ed Ryznar, Elijah Ellis and Stacy Wheatley. Henri Junghanel would have been selected but was not eligible because he is currently in graduate school.

Gymnastics
- The 20th-ranked Kentucky Gymnastics team topped 196 for the third consecutive meet in a 196.375-192.7 win over Bowling Green on Friday.
- Kayla Hartley clinched the second-highest team score in school history with a 9.9 floor exercise routine. The performance gave Hartley the event title for the second week in a row. It was also her first 9.9 since the season-opener. The junior has three event crowns from the past two meets.
- The Wildcats scored 49.125 on floor, which tied the season high.
- Kenzie Hedges took the event honors on vault as she stuck her landing for a career-best 9.875.

Softball
- The No. 15 UK softball team started its Southeastern Conference schedule in style by winning its series with the Ole Miss Rebels. UK dropped the first game of the series 3-1, before winning the final two games 5-2. The series win is the sixth consecutive over Ole Miss and marks the second time in three years UK has won the opening series of conference play. The series vs. Ole Miss was the first ever games played in the new UK Softball Complex.
- Freshman infielder Christian Stokes led the way for Kentucky, hitting .833 (5-for-6) for the weekend with three RBI and her first collegiate home run. Junior Lauren Cumbess went 3-for-9 over the weekend with a double, while junior Emily Gaines was 2-for-6 with two RBI.
- Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley suffered her first loss of the season in game one before earning wins Saturday and Sunday in a relief effort. Nunley is 12-1 on the year with a 2.02 ERA, striking out a team-best 67 batters.

Baseball

- Seventh-ranked Kentucky completed a 3-1 week with a series win over Michigan State during the weekend, also picking up a midweek win over Xavier on Wednesday.
- UK opened the series with the Spartans with a 2-1 win on Friday night. Sophomore left-hander A.J. Reed worked seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits and two walks. All-American centerfielder Austin Cousino got UK on the board with a first-inning homer, before Max Kuhn slugged his first career homer in the bottom of the eighth as the game-winning bomb.
- Kentucky won the series on Sunday in another rubber-match win from junior southpaw Corey Littrell, making his eighth series-deciding start in the last two years. The All-America starter worked seven innings and allowed just one run, striking out a career-high nine.

Men's tennis
- The UK men's tennis team fell twice this weekend, to No. 38 Baylor and No. 14 Texas A&M.
- Kentucky's road trip continues next weekend traveling to Ole Miss for a Friday showdown in Oxford before continuing the weekend in Starkville against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Women's tennis
- No. 44 Kentucky went 1-1 over the weekend, defeating No. 57 Missouri 5-2 on Friday, before falling to No. 4 Texas A&M 5-2 on Sunday.
- Freshman Nadia Ravita knocked off sixth-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar on Sunday 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. The win was Ravita's 13th singles win and fourth win over a ranked opponent this year.
- In Kentucky's win over Missouri, the Wildcats received singles wins in slots one through four, with Nadia Ravita, Jessica Stiles, Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff and Caitlin McGraw winning in straight sets.

Track and field
- The No. 20 Kentucky women's track and field team finished the NCAA Indoor Championships tied for 20th-place. The Wildcats earned the program's highest team finish since 1994 when they also finished tied for 20th. The Wildcats' 10 team points was the highest total at the National Championship Meet since 1990.
- Cally Macumber won the bronze medal in the women's 3,000 meters final to add six points to the Kentucky cause. She also contributed four on Friday night as the anchor in the distance medley relay.
- Morganne Phillips, Allison Peare and Chelsea Oswald were the other members of that squad.
- Keith Hayes scored two points for the men with a seventh-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles. Hayes lowered his school-record time to 7.69 in the event prelims to reach the final.

Men's golf
- The Kentucky men's golf team finished seventh out of the 17-team field at the USF Invitational, shooting 20 strokes over par for the tournament.
- Junior Stephen Powers recorded his second top-10 finish of the year, placing tied for sixth at 2-under-par. The Naperville, Ill., native was tied for the lead after the first round, posting a 4-under-par day and concluded his impressive tournament with an even par round two and two-over-par round three.
- Junior Ben Stow also finished in the top-20, tying for 14th overall at 1-over-par.

Upcoming schedule

Monday, March 11
Men's golf at Tiger Invitational (Auburn, Ala.)

Tuesday, March 12
Baseball hosts Ohio - 4:00 p.m.
Softball hosts North Carolina - 5:00 p.m.
Men's golf at Tiger Invitational (Auburn, Ala.)

Wednesday, March 13

Softball hosts Southern Illinois • 3:00 p.m.
Baseball hosts Cincinnati • 4:00 p.m.

Thursday, March 14
Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.)
Track and field at Bulls Invitational (Tampa, Fla.)

Friday, March 15
Men's tennis at Ole Miss - 2:00 p.m.
Women's tennis hosts Ole Miss - 4:00 p.m.
Softball at LSU - 7:00 p.m.
Baseball at Florida - 7:30 p.m.
Men's basketball vs. Arkansas/Vanderbilt - 7:30 p.m. (Nashville)
Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.)
Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.)
Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)

Saturday, March 16
Baseball at Florida - Noon
Softball at LSU - 5:00 p.m.
Gymnastics at Penn State - 7:00 p.m.
Men's basketball at SEC Semifinals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville)
Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.)
Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.)
Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)

Sunday, March 17
Women's tennis hosts Mississippi State - Noon
Softball at LSU - 1:00 p.m.
Baseball at Florida - 1:00 p.m.
Men's tennis at Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m.
Men's basketball at SEC Finals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville)
Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.)
Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)

Senior Henri Junghänel shot a 590 in air rifle at the NCAA Championships Saturday in his final performance as a Wildcat. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Senior Henri Junghanel shot a 590 in air rifle at the NCAA Championships Saturday in his final performance as a Wildcat. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Harry Mullins has a pretty good thing going. For the third straight season, UK has finished in the top two at the NCAA Championships. Mix in a national championship in 2011, and the Kentucky rifle team is arguably the most successful program in the entire department.

Having said that, there's disappointment in Kentucky's second straight runner-up finish at the 2013 NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend.

"It's always unfortunate when you don't win at the end of the year," said Mullins. "But overall, we've got to be very proud of the effort we gave throughout the course of the year."

Kentucky finished with a fairly impressive overall body of work. They earned a 10-1 regular-season record, defeated No. 1 West Virginia, finished second at the Great American Rifle Conference Championship and completed the season No. 2 in the country.

While teams are measured directly by their success at the highest level, Mullins refuses to let one meet determine the overall success of an entire season. Especially one as outstanding as the 2012-13 season.

"I thought they did a real good job," said Mullins of the season. "We shot 4,700 more times this year than we did the year before, so we're definitely moving in the right direction. The great part about that is we did that with different people each year. The primaries have stayed the same, but cycling out some of the others, so that's a testament to this year's team continuing to move that mark every year in order for us to be competitive."

Kentucky broke the 4,700 mark three times this year, including a season-high 4,716 against Army in UK's third meet of the season. From that point on, it was a roller coaster ride in terms of results for the Wildcats. They rallied to shoot 4,700 twice over their final four regular-season meets, including a 4,704 to defeat West Virginia in the finale.

Mullins and his shooters hoped that performance would spark a strong run heading into the postseason, as they looked to build on that 4,704 and trend upward into the conference and NCAA championships.

However, with more at stake, the pressure naturally builds. That was evident this past weekend at the NCAA Championships when no teams, not even national champion West Virginia, came close to breaking the 4,700 mark, the sport's standard for an elite performance.

"It's the NCAAs," said Mullins. "(Associate Athletics Director) Joe Sharpe was at the match and he's been to some regular-season matches and he was like, 'Wow, this is nothing like the regular season.' And it shouldn't be. It's the NCAAs. This is what we get evaluated on all year."

With the sport's top eight teams competing at the NCAA Championships, the separation is very narrow.

"The parity is very, very close," Mullins said. "Everybody works super hard to try and give their best level, and a lot of times it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on everybody to where the scores drop just a hair. Everybody wants to do an extra little thing."

The pressure affected each team, including the No. 1 Mountaineers who managed an aggregate score of 4679 to UK's 4670. TCU finished third with a 4664.

Now, Mullins must try to figure out a way for his team to better manage pressure situations heading into next season. Just hours after the NCAA Championships wrapped up, the UK head coach was already looking forward to next season.

"They said to take some time off and regroup and I said, 'I can't. The season just started about six hours ago,' " said Mullins. "That's being playful, but as a coach you always get excited about the athletes that you have coming in."

Add that to the mix of the athletes that Mullins has returning, and next year could be just as special as this one, if not better.

"Every year has me excited," said Mullins. "I think we have some proven veterans coming back next year, recruiting went well, when you put those two pieces of the puzzle together with all the support we get from athletics, campus and the community, and just the mindset we've put the program in, it's very exciting."

Mullins also believes the mark of a strong program is to to adjust and make the necessary changes to get better in the face of failure. That will be Mullins' and assistant coach Amy Sowash's next task when preparing for the upcoming season.

"We'll probably focus a lot more and ramp up the intensity with perhaps some tighter parameters to get them ready to deal with the pressure a little bit more," said Mullins. "For the most part, we've got some conceptual things we may change just a little bit, but I don't feel that our system is broken.

"We just didn't maximize to yield our maximum numbers. It's going to take some time to sit down and sort through the pieces."

Though Kentucky will lose some pretty important parts next season, including two-time All-American senior Henri Junghanel, there are plenty positives as Mullins looks to keep his good thing going. The experiences and challenges UK has faced this season will only help Kentucky as the Cats continue working to reach the ultimate level. Mullins won't fault the effort of his team, and if they keep pushing, it will only be a matter of time before the Wildcats are hoisting another trophy.

"I thought we had a good year," said Mullins. "Again, we can't be disappointed. We can be disappointed with the result, but we can't be disappointed with the effort we gave. When you keep striving with that type of effort, eventually we will win."

The UK rifle team begins competition in the 2013 NCAA Championships Friday morning. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) The UK rifle team begins competition in the 2013 NCAA Championships Friday morning. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Opportunities to prove that you are the very best at what you do don't come along all that often. Yes, in sports, in each individual league from little league to the Olympics, a champion is crowned. That, in essence, is a constant.

For each individual, however, especially at the collegiate level, you only get four opportunities - if you're lucky - to make your mark and leave an eternal legacy.

Kentucky rifle is a special program that continues to put itself into positions to be successful and give itself an opportunity to prove that it is the best rifle program in the country on an annual basis. While many have taken that success for granted over the years, the team itself, coaches and shooters alike, do not.

"Going into the championships, we've worked hard all year," said head coach Harry Mullins. "We bring a good body of work to the table. I feel we've put ourselves in a position that if we can continue to work hard and things bounce our way, we'll be prosperous at the end."

The run for the 2013 NCAA Championships starts Friday morning in Columbus, Ohio.

To find out how to follow along with the NCAA Championships, visit this link.


In 2011, after many years of successful runs at the NCAA Championships, the Wildcats were finally crowned as the best in the sport. The opportunity was there, and UK seized it.

As important and validating as a national championship was for Mullins and his program, it's certainly changed his philosophy on the sport. After figuring out what it took to get there and why maybe it took as long as it had, Mullins has taken away the emphasis of winning a national championship, even though it's the ultimate goal.

"After we won it and having the feeling of finally breaking through and winning an NCAA Championship, was it different than all the other meets?" said Mullins. "Yes and no. It was achieving that dream and that goal, but not to take anything away from any of the other squads that came close that gave me everything that they had, they did a pretty good job too. There's something special about winning, no doubt about it."

Mullins learned, however, the only way to get to that point is an even more important process that even allows them to experience the NCAA championship opportunity in the first place.

The pressure is not applied to just the postseason or big meets against the top-ranked teams in the country during the regular season. Every meet, every shot, every skill is equally important. That way, when UK reaches the final two days of the season this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, though the environment and setting might look different, the overall functions and execution are exactly the same, at least in theory.

"If we go into the meet worrying about winning the NCAA Championships, I say there's a high probability that we fail," Mullins said. "We've got to go do what we always do, and do it to the best of our ability and see where that lands us."

That starts at the beginning of the season when the team convenes officially for the first time. Everything from that point forward shapes and molds the type of shooters and competitors that these athletes ultimately become.

Though skill, focus, and talent are traits that ultimately lead to success, Mullins believes that the Cats fate is not ultimately in their own hands, at least not entirely. It takes a little bit of luck to come out on top on the final day of the NCAA Championships, but even though that may be true, Mullins believes that luck can be influenced.

"I think you create your own luck and your own fortune starting in August and how hard you work," said Mullins. "I feel we put in a pretty good body of work in that sense."

That body of work on paper shows that UK is the No. 3 team in the nation heading into the championship, having defeated the No. 1 and No. 4 teams in the country during the regular season with the lone regular season loss coming at the hands of No. 2 TCU. Yet again, it's been one of those patented UK rifle seasons.

Despite the success and the body of work they've put together in 2013, Mullins and his team still feels there is another level they can reach. They've worked hard on the range with the intent of peaking at exactly the right moment. That is perhaps the toughest part of Mullins' job: structuring a training schedule that allows for that to happen.

The hope is that by this point in the season, needing two days of peak performance from its shooters, Kentucky can put together its best event of the season. If that happens is anyone's guess.

"Did we burn it all out? Are we going to be spent?" said Mullins. "Is our tank going to be empty by the time we get there? That's going to be hard to measure until we get there because we're dealing with humans. You try to take away as many distractions as humanly possible."

The distractions are numerous, and each one is magnified in a sport where ultimate focus and stillness is the key to success. Even the smallest flinch could ruin a good day, or worse, cost an NCAA championship.  That's what this season has been about, however: reducing the chances of that happening.

If it all comes together for Kentucky, it won't be a surprise. The Cats have set themselves up for this opportunity. They've worked for it. Mullins just hopes that his team has an opportunity at the end of the day to win that trophy.

"Every coach hopes their first shooter comes out of the gate just smoking and that the team picks up the momentum and starts stacking points," said Mullins. "It will probably boil down to the last few shots in air rifle. I'd like to see it that we're either far enough in the lead that those last few shots don't matter, or that if we're not in the lead, we're within striking distance at the end."

And if that happens, the opportunity to be the best will be within their grasp. Winning this event could change their lives.

"They, for the rest of their life, will be treated different," said Mullins.

Competition in the 2013 NCAA Rifle Championships begins on Friday morning at 8 a.m. ET and third-ranked Kentucky in trying for a second national title in three seasons.

Just eight teams are competing in smallbore on Friday and air rifle on Saturday. Here is the Wildcats' schedule:

March 8 (smallbore):
Relay 1 (8 a.m.): Emily Holsopple, Stacy Wheatley, Elijah Ellis
Relay 2 (8:45 a.m.): Aaron Holsopple, Heather Greathouse
Relay 3 (9:30 a.m.): Connor Davis, Henri Junghänel
(The smallbore final will take place after the third relay)

March 9 (air rifle):
Relay 1 (8:00 a.m.): Emily Holsopple, Aaron Holsopple, Heather Greathouse
Relay 2 (8:45 a.m.): Connor Davis, Henri Junghänel
(The air rifle final will take place after the second relay)

There are a number of ways fans can keep up with the action. First of all, NCAA.com is airing live streams of all events. Here's how you can find those:

March 8 (smallbore):
Relay 1
Relay 2
Relay 3
Individual Finals

March 9 (air rifle):
Relay 1
Relay 2
Finals
Individual Finals

If you are unable to watch live, you have other options too:


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