EXCLUSIVE: Theft hits Radford air riflery H.S. team

Nathan Wharton
Nathan Wharton
Kari Wells
Kari Wells

Members of Radford High School's air riflery team are reeling from the theft of nearly half of their equipment.

With the start of the season less than two weeks away, thieves broke into Radford's athletic containers over the weekend, making off with more than $5,000 worth of air rifles and other equipment.

"I don't know what kind of person would do this to the kids -- that they would take from the kids," said coach Nathan Wharton.

Ten air rifles -- each valued between $250 and $650 -- were taken. Many of the air rifles were donated by Wharton and other sport enthusiasts and the school doesn't have the money to buy new ones.

"The school with the budget cuts, they don't have the ability to pay for replacements," he said.

Parent Kari Wells said her son Bailey, a team member since last year, was upset when he found out about the theft.

"I think someone that has no heart" would do this, she said. "It's a very selfish thing that's affecting all of these kids."

Radford typically fields a competitive team and several past members have gone on to compete collegiately.

The 21-member team had enough air rifles for each of the members. But due to the theft, members must now double up, which cuts into their practice times.

With nine days before the season starts, Wharton said his students will be ready.

"We're still going to compete. We're still going to participate in the league and represent Radford to the best of our abilities," he said.

Added Wells, the parent:

"People can take things from them but they can achieve their goal if they work hard and work as a team," she said.

"They want to keep going and prove that they can overcome this."

The rifles were not insured so the team plans to hold fundraisers but it will be difficult to raise enough money in time for a season that ends in October.

Meanwhile, the school hopes that the thieves will just return the items, no questions asked.

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