FESTUS, Mo. – A local high school celebrated a state championship in its first year of competition.

“It was a relief to me,” said Sherri Rawe.

Sherri Rawe, who is the coach of the air rifle team at Jefferson High School, had to convince the district to let the new program start. So, she made a bold prediction.

“I had kind of inserted my foot in my mouth early on in this program that we would not only start the program but win state…” Rawe said.

Then came the challenge of running a first-year program.

“A third of my team had never even held a gun before, never pulled a trigger, never fired a shot,” Rawe said. “Knew absolutely nothing. I knew that Jefferson had the kids with the talent and the passion for shooting sports that we can do it.”

So, with that confidence, Rawe and the student-athletes went to work, progressing each week.

Come December, Rawe’s bold call came to fruition.

“There’s no better feeling than watching a kid succeed,” she said. “They worked hours and hours. Their passion, their dedication, and their drive are what made this happen.”

“Our coaches and our kids put forth a mindset of establishing a goal,” said Clint Johnston, superintendent for Jefferson R-7 School District. “They brought the trophy home. They won the state first-year program, and we could not be more ecstatic for their success.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of the group. Especially the people that improved so much from whenever we first started shooting,” said Kayden Rundel.

Not only did the team place first at state, but senior Rundel was the best male shooter, setting a state record in the process.

“It didn’t feel real,” he said. “It was like, ‘Wow!’ It’s kind of hard to grasp that I am, but it’s also awesome at the same time.”