Kentucky's rifle team defeated No. 1 West Virginia on Saturday 4704 - 4695 to cap off a perfect 6-0 conference season and take the Great American Rifle Conference Regular Season Championship, Kentucky's sixth GARC regular season title in program history and third in as many years.
"We are very happy for our team today," UK head coach Harry Mullins said. "They have worked incredibly hard to get to this point and I think this is a great way to enter into the postseason. It's always exciting when you take home the regular season title in a conference as competitive as the GARC."
The showdown of top-three teams featured intensity from the get go as the two finished Prone dead even at 791. With strong performances from junior Aaron Holsopple and freshman Connor Davis, Kentucky made a move in Standing, jumping 12 points on West Virginia to give Kentucky a 1567 - 1545 lead entering Kneeling.
Kentucky took advantage of the opportunity and added another six points to its lead in Kneeling. A new personal best 588 in smallbore from Aaron Holsopple enabled the Wildcats to enter the break with a 2343 - 2325 lead over West Virginia.
"Aaron did an excellent job in smallbore," UK assistant coach Amy Sowash said. "He really had to work through kneeling to overcome some adversity, but he gutted it out and had a great finish."
Kentucky was pleased with an 18-point lead at the break but knew West Virginia's air rifle ability was more than capable of quickly erasing their deficit.
UK fans crammed into the range for air rifle to create an intense atmosphere for the event that would determine the regular season title. The squads were neck and neck through the first 10 shots in air rifle, Kentucky with 395 to West Virginia's 394. The tight race continued through 20 shots, with the teams tied at 787 in air rifle but the Wildcats still holding onto their 18-point overall lead.
The Mountaineers needed to make a move and had hoped to position themselves for a comeback with a 1578 through 40 shots but UK was there to match every step of the way, also posting a 1578 and holding onto an 18-point lead with 20 shots to go.
West Virginia surged in the final 20 shots but was unable to overcome the lead Kentucky had built, falling by nine points. Kentucky's 4705 marked the third time the Wildcats broke the 4700 barrier on the season.
Kentucky's smallbore effort was solid across the board with all four counting scores sitting at 584 or higher. Senior Henri Junghänel delivered a 586 with junior Emily Holsopple one point behind with a 585. Davis posted a 584 to open his day.
Junghänel led the Wildcats in air rifle, shooting a 594. Davis delivered a 592 while senior Stacy Wheatley contributed with a 590. Senior Heather Greathouse posted a 585 in air rifle.
Kentucky's second relay posted strong numbers in air rifle, including senior James Jasis and sophomore Cody Manning both recording new personal bests. Manning shot a 591 while Jasis delivered a 590. Sophomore Elijah Ellis added in with a 587 and senior Ed Ryznar and freshman Luke South both shot a 586.
The historic rivalry doesn't end here, Kentucky took round one but the two programs will meet again at the GARC Conference Championships and then the NCAA Championships.
Kentucky will have two weeks off before hitting the road for Oxford, Miss., and the GARC Conference Championships.