Rifle Falls Just Short in League Championship

West Virginia dug too deep of a hole on day one of the Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships on Saturday, but battled back for a second place finish on Sunday.

The top-ranked team in the nation fell behind Kentucky by 15 points in the smallbore competition on Saturday, and despite a ten-point rally on Sunday were unable to overcome the Wildcats, who claimed the league title. WVU finished second with a 4645 aggregate score, while Kentucky, the only squad to defeat the Mountaineers in the regular season, finished first with a score of 4650.

After finishing ahead of WVU yesterday through the smallbore competition (2310-2295), the Wildcats maintained their edge despite finishing second in the air rifle with a 2340 score.

Nebraska finished third (4620), while host Ole Miss finished fourth (4576) and 2008 champion Army finished fifth (4553).

The finish is the Mountaineers' best since they finished second in 2003. WVU won the air rifle for the second-consecutive year, as the team finished first least season with a score of 2336.

Sophomore Tommy Santelli finished the weekend with the championships best combined score, earning 591 air and 578 smallbore for an 1169 aggregate score.

"I'm happy to win air rifle again," says Coach Jon Hammond. "We made some progress today after trailing yesterday, but we just started too far behind. I think knowing that we can come back with a strong air rifle performance if we need to will help us in the future."

Santelli led three Mountaineers in the air rifle finals, as the Prosperity, Pa., native finished second overall with a 693.8 score. Junior Bryant Wallizer took third with a score of 692.3, while freshman Michael Kulbacki earned an eighth-place finish with a score of 686.6.

"I'm proud that we had three place in the finals for the second-straight day," Hammond says. "I know each of those guys wanted to win, but they all had solid performances."

Prior to the air rifle finals, Santelli paced WVU's scoring team, shooting 591 (99, 99, 98, 99, 97, 99). Wallizer shot 589, including one 100 string (98, 98, 98, 97, 98, 100), while Kulbacki earned a 586 (98, 94, 97, 99, 99, 99).The Mountaineers' final counter, sophomore Andy Lamson, shot 584. Classmate Kyle Smith matched Lamson's score.

Meredith Holman of Ole Miss finished first overall in the air rifle with a score of 698.2.

The Mountaineers now embark on a week of preparation before competing in the 2009 NCAA Championships, March 13-14, at TCU.

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