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LEXINGTON – The University of Kentucky is known for a championship attitude when it comes to athletics, and one former Shelby County High School student is helping the rifle team to reach its second national championship.
Connor Davis, a freshman at UK, has helped the rifle team obtain a No. 2 national ranking.
While at SCHS Davis won the 2011 Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corp (JROTC) National Championship along with finishing first in small-bore in the Junior Olympic Rifle Championships.
He said now he hopes to propel his UK team to another national championship.
"We are very focused, very competitive, and I think we can do it this year," Davis said.
Coming out of high school, Davis was a highly touted recruit. He had offers from colleges across the country, including the University of Alaska and West Virginia University.
"UK has been good nationally and has only won one national championship, so I wanted to go somewhere where I could make history," he said.
Just last weekend, he and the team took a step in that direction by winning the Great America Rifle Conference Championships in Oxford, Miss. Davis won the individual air rifle title, rallying to beat a shooter from West Virginia by a half a point.
That may be why, even though he’s a freshman, Davis said he has found that he doesn’t have to prove that he deserves his spot on the team.
“As the season’s gone on I’ve grown as a shooter, and instead of trying to be ‘Superman’ I just try and be me,” he said.
UK is known for its academics as well as athletics, and Davis said that being a student-athlete is more than just participating in the sport; it's about getting a top-notch education, too. Being on the rifle team, he said, has some advantages.
"You get access to really cool academic facilities and tutors, along with priority registration for classes to work around your practice and travel schedule," he said.
With the NCAA national championship approaching for the rifle team, the coaching staff is making sure that the team stays within its game plan.
"We are trying to stay with the same plan we’ve had all year, and that’s work on basics skills and have good solid work ethic," said Amy Sowash, an assistant coach for the UK rifle team. “This team has done smart, quality, day in and day out work.”
In 2011 the rifle team won its first national title in school history, and coaches and shooters are hoping this season will provide a repeat.
"Some of the people [from the 2011 team] are still here,” Sowash said. “They are a solid group of individuals and teammates, and I think that’s what leads to championships."