PILOT MOUNTAIN — East Surry’s Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) cadets can attest teams who have not heard about them in Raider Competition smirk as they survey what appears to be a rag-tag group of participants in all heights, shapes and sizes.
Once they see them compete, they don’t make the mistake of underestimating East again.
The JROTC Cardinal Battalion Raider A-Team and B-Teams faced off against 81 other teams from across the nation in Molena, Ga., recently and returned home with honors. In the Male Division, the A-Team earned a trophy for finishing second in rope bridge with a time of 2:22 and ranked 12th in the nation overall.
The B-Team competed in the Mixed Team Division and finished fourth in the Rope Bridge Event and 16th overall nationally. On Sunday morning, East Surry was represented in the Untimate Raider Competition by Luke Merritt and Rylee Hale. Merritt said the teams performed solidly in all the events and didn’t make any mistakes.
“It’s all about heart,” said Cadet Nic Yanez. “We are a small school compared to the others. One school was an academy with 4,000 students. There were teams faster but there wasn’t a team there with more heart.” A-Team Captain Luke Merritt and B-Team Captain Abbagail Hooker agreed with Yanez that for East’s cadets, JROTC is more like a lifestyle.
“We are close. We’re more like family than teammates,” said Cadet Kendra Shinault. All agreed that they routinely do things such as rigorous physical conditioning, that average kids don’t like to do because they like it and they accomplish this by helping each other.
First Sargent Ronald Montgomery agreed. He said the group, which is marking its second year in Raider Competition, is a close team, often huddling between events in the nationals to calm themselves before the next challenge and pause to pray before the next event.
“You just don’t see that in many sports teams these days,” said Montgomery, who also praised the support of community and families. Raider Competition this year held some surprises for the two teams. One example of this was the rope, used for what has become the teams signature event, the rope bridge, was found to be frayed. In spite of efforts to get a replacement rope, the teams wound up borrowing a rope from another team.
According to the cadets, another twist for them this year was accidentally skipping a portion of the cross country course and having to make adjustments as they literally covered the ground for the first time in the competition. The mud crawl’s last bars were also set low, requiring the cadets to go face down in the cold water to exit the obstacle. The night before competition, temperatures were 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
“Some of the obstacles were different this time, like the cross country rescue,” said Hooker. “We didn’t have a lot of time between events this year like we did last year so it became a mental thing we had to push though.”
Merritt said the teams had a plan and the preparation helped them rise to the occasion even when they found out about changes in the rope bridge event right before they competed. Merritt said a large part of the team’s success was its dedication to getting in shape months before the competition, before and after school. The practices were cadet-driven by their goal of being better in their second trip to nationals.
This was the first time competition in the Ultimate Raider Competition for Cadet Rylee Hale, who said the participants didn’t know they would be tapped for the honor until the last minute.
“I knew we would have someone in it but I didn’t know exactly who would do it,” said Hale. “I was very happy. If I get to do it next year when I’m a senior I will know what to expect.” Cadet Daniel Stewart, whose brother Sam competed last year, said he expected the course to be the same and used a bit of the pressure from his older brother to inspire him more.
Members of the A-Team are Garrett Cannoy, Austin Wood, Samuel Faries, Michael Gravely, Jourdain McCord, Christian Mabe, Daniel Marsh, Derrick Moore, Daniel Stewart, Nicholas Yanez and Colton Bruner. The B-Team members included Dalton Allen, Zach Goins, Cameron Gray, Rylee Hale, Hailey Hawks, Samuel George, Joseph Hickman, Andrew Knott, Ashlyn Nagel, Kendra Shinault and Kaitlyn Stevens.
“We are taught to push, push our bodies and the mind will follow and you can do so much more,” said Hooker. “If you prepare, set a goal, give it your best effort and lose a little sleep you will succeed.”
The Raiders compete again this weekend at Fred T. Foard High School in Newton to begin the qualification cycle for next year’s Raider Nationals.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.