ATKINSON, Neb. — Most national champions don’t come from towns with populations of 1,300.

A group of sophomores from West Holt High school have proved that theory wrong.

On their trip to Indianapolis for the 96th National FFA convention, the team didn’t know what to expect.

“We probably weren’t sure that we were even going to make finals because it was definitely a goal that was set very high for us,” Taylor Walnofer said. "But our main goal, we wanted to make it through the first round."

They went above and beyond that goal and got first place in the Conduct of Chapter Meetings (CCM) competing against teams from across the country.

“It was a really surreal experience,” Madalyn Pistulka said. "I still can’t wrap my head around it."

For AG teacher and West Holt FFA advisor David Gibbens, hearing the team’s name called invoked a different emotion.

“It was just relief,” Gibbens said. "We’ve worked so many hours. I’ve never had a team put as much time in as this and stick with their goals for as long so I was just relieved."

The team has been a group since 8th grade when they approached Gibbens to compete in the contest.

Gibbens said this group is one of the most special he’s seen compete at FFA.

“I can’t think of a group that I’ve had in over 30 years that has been this dedicated for this long," Gibbens said. "I can’t imagine very many students in any school sticking together for as long as they have.”

When they got back from Indiana, the group was greeted with a warm welcome home from the community.

“We had firetrucks that led us into town and then we had a lot of our classmates and members of our community, they were all playing music for us when we got back," Ava Hoffman said.