The GMC Prep riflery team set its sights on a tough-to-hit target at the start of this season.
After shooting their way to an undefeated regular season and area championship, the Bulldogs kept their eyes trained downrange toward the ultimate prize — a GHSA state championship. Their aim was true as GMC Prep won the rifle program’s first-ever state title Saturday, April 24, in Griffin. A team-record 1160 points was good enough to edge out Northside-Columbus (1154), East Coweta (1153) and three-time defending state champ Ware County (1151).
Not only that, but Bulldog senior Colin Haskins earned the individual state championship in a shootout where he defeated two-time defending individual champ Laci Jewell from Ware County. He contributed 296 points (out of a possible 300) to the team score and totaled 396.20 in the individual competition. Haskins shot a perfect standing score, and made his last time out on the range as a GMC Prep Bulldog a memorable one.
“I shot my personal best that day,” he said. “I usually do better under pressure, and that was the most pressure I’ve ever had in a competition.”
Sophomore Madison Kennedy’s 293, senior Stella Glover’s 287, junior Caterina Knapp’s 284 and junior Kelsey Carpenter’s 274 all contributed to GMC’s winning total. Kennedy finished fourth in the state as an individual with 392 points, and she’ll bring back the team’s highest state score next year when the Bulldogs will look to defend their title.
Unlike almost all other GHSA-sanctioned state competitions, there are no classifications based on school size in riflery, so GMC is the undisputed 2021 champ after beating the 16 other state qualifiers a couple weeks ago.
GMC Prep rifle coach Col. David Lewis shared that his team’s incredible 2021 success started with a discussion back in the fall.
“We talked as a team about wanting to make a run at state and see what happens,” Lewis said. “We kept that as our goal throughout the year, and there was a lot of hard work put in by the young men and women on our team.”
More days on the shooting range and a close-knit set of shooters were big factors in the historic season, the head coach said.
“These five have been rock solid all year long,” Lewis added. “I’m incredibly proud of them and their hard work. It all came together for us… I think teamwork has been the biggest piece that has given this team success. They all work together, they all get along, and everybody picks each other up. It’s a very positive team.”
Riflery is an indoor sport where competitors shoot at targets from the standing, kneeling and prone positions. GMC Prep’s team benefits from sharing a range, located in the Ruark Athletic Complex, with the GMC junior college program. The sport has long been offered at the prep school where the ‘Dogs have won seven region/area championships, but struggled to get into the top of the pack at state until this year. Col. Lewis has coached the team the last two years, but he credits previous coach, Sgt. Maj. Shedina McCabe, who recruited each of the five shooters that competed at state this year, for getting the program where it is today.
“She really built this program,” he said.
The Bulldogs took to the range April 24 among the first group of teams competing for state. In that same group was three-time defending state champ Ware County, but that day it was GMC Prep that set the bar extremely high with its program-best 1160. While waiting to see if its score would remain on top was excruciating, the winning team did agree that it benefited from shooting early.
“We were able to put the pressure on everybody else,” Haskins said.
After about six hours of watching other teams’ point totals show up on the competition’s online scoring system, GMC Prep was handed the coveted GHSA state championship trophy.
“It felt good,” said Glover, one of the team’s seniors. “It was nice to end on a high note.”
The Bulldog shooters will look to reload and see if they can hit the sport’s top target again in 2022 with three out of five state competitors returning.