Rifle Captures Conference Crown with a Win Over N.C. State

Jan. 31, 2009

OXFORD, Miss. -- For the third time since 2003, the Kentucky rifle team has claimed the Great American Rifle Conference Championship, defeating N.C. State 4615-4515 on Saturday afternoon at the Patricia C. Lamar National Readiness Center on the campus of Ole Miss.

Kentucky (11-1, 6-0 GARC) notched its third GARC regular-season championship with the win, tops in the league. The Wildcats entered Saturday’s regular-season finale needing a win to take sole possession of the conference, with a loss opening up the potential for a split regular-season title with West Virginia.

“I am real excited for the team,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said. “This was one of our goals that we set out with last year, to go undefeated in conference play, but we lost to Army in the regular season a year ago. It was obviously a goal of our team this year, but we have not accomplished all of our goals yet, there is still work to do. Overall, it just shows the hard work that the kids are putting in, to come out and shoot good numbers without three of your big guns.”

UK was without three of its top shooters, as Tom Csenge, Megan English and Ethan Settlemires are overseas competing in an international tournament.

“I look at the season now as a three-game series,” Mullins said. “We are now 1-0 and at the end of the season we want to be 3-0, with the conference tournament and the NCAA Championships. If we do that, we have accomplished our goals.”

The Wildcats got solid scores from several players, including Jen Pason, Ashley Jackson and Andrew Roland. Pason totaled a 582 in smallbore, with Jackson and Roland each posting a 579 in smallbore. In air rifle, Jackson notched a 591 in air rifle, finishing the match with three consecutive 100’s.

Kentucky will return to action in the NCAA Qualifiers, held on Feb. 14-15 in Lexington, Ky. The Wildcats will then have the conference championships on Feb. 28 and March 1 in Oxford. On Friday, UK posted a 4626-4565 win over Ole Miss in Oxford.

“(Second-place) West Virginia is a good team,” Mullins said. “They and the rest of the conference are going to be fired up for the postseason and there are some highly motivated, talented teams. The conference has just gotten so good, it really speaks volumes of the team. I am just real proud of the team for working so hard throughout the season.”

Kentucky has claimed the GARC regular-season championship in 2003-04, 2006-07 and 2008-09, with only Army posting two titles since 2004. UK also has a conference-best four GARC Tournament championships since 2001, including a title in 2007.

“I equate our conference to the Southeastern Conference in football – where if you go undefeated in the SEC, that is really saying something about your program,” Mullins said. “That is the same thing with our conference, if you can come out clean, you are doing well, the parity is just so close that it takes a lot of work to get all six of those wins, a lot of hard work and talent.”