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Teams tough it out for regional honors

Refusing to surrender to the cool, rainy weather, some 150 Junior ROTC cadets competed in a regional Raider meet on Saturday at Orange County High School.

It marked the first time that the school hosted the event, which First Sgt. (ret.) Charles McIntyre described as “the Olympics of JROTC.”

“In this year’s initial tryouts, there were 84 cadets standing in the formation,” said McIntyre, who coaches the OCHS team and organized the meet. “And about two weeks ago, we were down to 36. The rest—nobody pushed them out. They said, ‘This is too much for me.’ So the kids you are seeing here are the elite.”

A Raider meet is designed to test the physical, mental and teamwork capabilities of its competitors, who work individually and in teams of eight. It includes a battery of physical fitness tests including push-ups, sit-ups and a mile run for time.

Additionally, teams were required to complete such exercises carrying a weighted stretcher, or litter, through obstacles; flipping a 2 ½ ton truck tire up and down a course and a rope-bridge challenge. The latter involves rigging, crossing and derigging a single rope bridge across a 25-meter span. Afterward, the teams did a timed, 5-kilometer run in formation.

Teams from six high schools, including OCHS, competed on Saturday. Each school was allowed to field multiple teams, with a total of 16 teams competing in three categories—all male, all female and mixed. Trophies were awarded to the best team in each category, plus for the best performance in each event.

Courtland High School won the mixed-team prize, as well as first place in the 5K formation run, litter carry and in physical fitness. Its team also had the highest score in the tire flip.

Fishburne Academy in Waynesboro took top honors in the all-male team category, and OCHS won in the all-female category. Buckingham County High School’s team won the rope bridge challenge,

Teams from Massaponax and Spotsylvania high schools also participated.

OCHS Cadet Battalion commander Nick Wischman said Raider meets help to reinforce lessons learned in the JROTC curriculum.

“Raiders are the main competing teams for ROTC units. The best cadets compete,” he said. “It is really tied in to everything physical that we do in class.”

The opportunity to take part in such competitions apparently is attracting more cadets than ever, seeking to challenge themselves and find their true potential.

“Our Raider team basically increased to twice as many since last year,” Wischman said.

Dan McFarland: