Rifle Travels to Oxford for GARC Championships

Feb. 27, 2009

OXFORD, Miss. -- Winners of the 2008-09 Great American Rifle Conference regular season championship, the Kentucky rifle team travels to Oxford, Miss., to compete in the GARC Tournament, held on the campus of Ole Miss, Saturday-Sunday at the Patricia C. Lamar National Readiness Center.

“We have trained very hard this season,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said. “We have had our ups and downs and now it has come time to take everything we have learned and showcase it through our performances. We have had some really special things happen this year by some of our freshmen and some of our upperclassmen. I would love to see all of them have a great tournament this weekend to reward them for all the hard work they have put in this season.”

Kentucky (10-1, 6-0 GARC) claimed the regular-season championship with an undefeated regular season. The Wildcats lone regular-season blemish came at the hands of the two-time defending NCAA Champion, Alaska-Fairbanks.

Last time out, the Wildcats posted a solid 4671 in NCAA qualifying competition, a season-best. UK used strong performances from Tom Csenge, Andrew Roland and Jen Pason in the qualifying round, with Csenge shooting a school-record 595 in air rifle.

“We have come together closer as a team, worked hard to achieve this and trained hard on the range for countless hours,” Mullins said. “Holding together as a team and working through the pressure moments will help us out a bunch. We can always say we need more time to perfect things yet the time has come to perform. If everybody shows up this weekend it will be one of the most exciting conference championships in the history of the GARC. We have a very talented group of teams competing this year. It will probably come down to the last few shots on the last relay to see who is going to win. That is kind of like playing a 48-minute basketball game and having the ball with 20 seconds left for the win.”

Competition begins Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET, with smallbore, concluding around 5:30 p.m. ET. Sunday, the teams will complete the tournament with air rifle, set to begin at 8 a.m. ET. Fans can follow along through the Ole Miss athletic website, www.olemisssports.com.

UK Head Coach Harry Mullins Quotes

How do you feel about this weekend?
“Anytime you go into post season is a good feeling, yet having to face the top team in the nation week in and week out, hopefully made us a lot stronger. I think that WVU and Army, who both will be at the NCAAs, will come in with a strong purpose. We are just going to have to come in perform like we have trained.”

How he feels the freshmen will handle the pressure for their first post season?
“They are both veterans in regards to shooting big matches. This is where I hope that going to Germany and shooting in one of the largest air rifle matches in the world will pay off. I think if they stay focused on the task of shooting 10s then they will come through just fine. There always has to be a first time.”

What do you think the rest of the team is going to bring to the match?
“I think the veterans will bring the intensity and drive needed to push us over the top. WVU and us are very equal in talent. I think it is going to come down to who can shoot within their comfort zones and above for the best results. This is where I hope our upper classmen will make the difference. They know this and have had to perform under the pressure in the past post seasons trying to achieve this mode of operation. If they keep focused on what we have trained, then I think we will get good results from them.”

Why did you make the change in the lineup with Jen Pason?
“Jen has been one of our stars the past two years. In order to stay or get to the top one-percent level you need to have a fine edge that gets you through the rough spots. Jen has been struggling with this on and off this season. She is a very talented athlete and I think the world of her, yet we need to find that consistent edge for her again to get the numbers we did her freshman year. I look at it as giving her the opportunity to get back into the high numbers without the pressure of the team holding her back and build some solid confidence in her shooting. I strongly believe that she will find that consistent edge again and get right back in the starting lineup.”

Is it a gamble placing the freshmen in the lineup over Jen?
“It is always a gamble when you move people around. In our sport, once you start there is no subbing out once the match starts. Thus you are always at the mercy of how people react to different situations. Watching them that past two months and running numbers through my head every way possible, brought me to this conclusion. We have had solid training numbers from the five we are starting this weekend. That is not to say that we did not leave numbers on the board each time, yet they were never from the same person up or down so this is the team that I think can give us the best mean number in order for us to achieve our goal. As a coach you always want to pick it right for the benefit of the team.”

On his overall feeling for the weekend …
“We have trained very hard this season. We have had our ups and downs and now it has come time to take everything we have learned and showcase it through our performances. We have had some really special things happen this year by some of our freshmen and some of our upperclassmen. I would love to see all of them have a great tournament this weekend to reward them for all the hard work they have put in this season.

“We have come together closer as a team, worked hard to achieve this and trained hard on the range for countless hours. Holding together as a team and working through the pressure moments will help us out a bunch. We can always say we need more time to perfect things yet the time has come to perform. If everybody shows up this weekend it will be one of the most exciting conference championships in the history of the GARC. We have a very talented group of teams competing this year. It will probably come down to the last few shots on the last relay to see who is going to win. That is kind of like playing a 48-minute basketball game and having the ball with 20 seconds left for the win.”