FORT WORTH, Texas -- After claiming the Great American Rifle Conference regular season and tournament championships, the Kentucky rifle team wraps up its season in the 2009 NCAA Championships, held on the campus of Texas Christian University, Friday-Saturday.
Kentucky has suffered only one loss on the year, a non-conference setback at two-time defending NCAA Champion Alaska-Fairbanks. UK rolled through the GARC regular season undefeated, posting a win in the conference championship in Oxford, Miss.
“I think we have worked hard all year,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said. “This is one time that we can show everyone how hard we have worked. We have had a good season so far and performing well this weekend would be a great reward for a lot of hard work by our kids.”
Competition in air rifle will begin Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET in the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum, with smallbore to be shot Friday. UK is among eight total teams in the field, including Alaska-Fairbanks, Army, Jacksonville State, Navy, Nevada and West Virginia. Live stats are available on TCU’s official website, GoFrogs.com.
“Just like the conference championships, I think it is going to come down to the last few shoots on each day to decide the champion,” Mullins said. “The top teams are so close in talent that I think it will go to the one who held together the longest and can come through the rough spots a little smoother than the others. You can feel the excitement here and that will play a large role by the end of each day.”
The Wildcats have never claimed the NCAA title, finishing among the top 10, 14 of the last 15 seasons. UK has finished second three times, in 1997, 2001 and 2002. Last season, UK finished fifth overall and the Wildcats posted a fourth-place finish in 2007.
UK Head Coach Harry Mullins Pre-NCAA Quotes
How do you feel about the match?
“I think we have worked hard all year. This is one time that we can show everyone how hard we have worked. We have had a good season so far and performing well this weekend would be a great reward for a lot of hard work by our kids.”
How do you feel about two freshmen in the starting lineup?
“At this stage of the season, they are not freshmen anymore. I feel they have learned a lot about themselves this season. I really think that this weekend will cap off a good freshmen season for both of them (Ethan Settlemires/Megan English).”
Which event do you think will make an impact in the overall results?
“Just like the conference championships, I think it is going to come down to the last few shoots on each day to decide the champion. The top teams are so close in talent that I think it will go to the one who held together the longest and can come through the rough spots a little smoother than the others. You can feel the excitement here and that will play a large role by the end of each day.”
How do you feel about the individual events?
“Rifle is an individual sport. We have to perform as individuals to get the collective effort and result of the team. We will have five shooters in each event, four for the team and one individual. Our team goal is to place as many individuals in the final eight in each event. If we can do this then I think that this will help the team tremendously.”
How does the team feel right now?
“Well, right now we are fighting a few battles with some illnesses and the pressure of the event, yet I think our kids are very strong. They have a tremendous drive a focus. The illnesses may hurt them a little but I think they will make that up with heart.”
What would winning a championship mean to the team?
“It would mean the world. The pride that these athletes have in our school and our athletics program is tremendous. I think that they feel bringing home a championship for the University of Kentucky Rifle Team would be a great honor for them. There is no money involved in our sport, in terms of professional advancement, so winning a championship would be a just reward for their efforts this season.”
Do you feel that this team could be the one?
“We go into every season thinking that, but I feel that this is a very special team. They have learned to overcome and solve problems, work hard, and stay focused for an entire season. Win, lose, or draw in this match, I am very proud of this team for all the effort that they gave this season. The journey for this team to get here has been great, now it is time to hold on tight and perform like we know we can. I think if we do that good things will happen for this group.”