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Marion JROTC enjoys successful fall season

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MUDDY: Cadets from Marion High School JROTC catch their breath following the cross country rescue event at the national championships.
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CANOE:The Giants carry a canoe loaded with 250 pounds as part of the physical team test during the All-Army Raider National Championship in Molena, Georgia.

by Tim Tedeschi, ttedeschi@chronicle-tribune.com

The Marion High School JROTC Raider Team wrapped up another successful season last weekend, Nov. 2-3, at the All-Army Raider National Championship in Molena, Georgia.

The team tied for first place in the point total of the five-event competition but lost the tiebreaker to Hobart High School from northern Indiana in the small school category. However, the Giant Raiders finished fifth overall in the nation regardless of school size.

“We beat private military academies with 1,000 cadets in them and large JROTC programs of 500 or 600 cadets, so that was a really impressive showing for our team from Marion,” Lt. Col. David Farlow, Marion JROTC senior Army instructor, said.

Farlow said overall it was another successful fall season for the Raiders, including an additional runner-up finish in the state championship, again falling short against Hobart by just two seconds in one run.

“The two schools are very competitive with each other and they’re both great teams, and we just kind of ended up on the shorter end of the stick twice,” Farlow said. “It’s frustrating, but when you get beat by a great team, it doesn’t mean you’re not a great team yourself.”

This fall’s team featured a good mix of new and experienced cadets, Farlow said, including five returning seniors. There were around 40 total cadets involved with Raiders this fall, split up into varsity, junior varsity and a “C” team.

Unlike other sports, Farlow said Raiders is a unique challenge due to its untimed events coming right after another.

“Unlike basketball or football where you have a time limit and the game is not going to go longer than this amount of time, Raiders is you run a few miles, you run 5 miles, you run 1 mile, each one right after another. So it’s just a grueling event. The faster you do it, the better your scores.”

The national championship featured five events. In the physical team test, 10 cadets sprint through a half mile of obstacles while simultaneously having to carry various items, and the next event was a 3.1 mile mountain run on a steep incline.

“Literally they start off running straight up a mountain on a wooded path and they run to the top of the mountain, get to the top, turn around and come right back down. And so that is grueling, especially for us here in Indiana where we don’t really even have big hills,” Farlow said.

The next event, rope bridge, involves cadets using a rope and harnesses to get from one side of a river to the other. Farlow said this year featured the Marion Raiders’ fastest rope bridge time at three minutes and two seconds.

Sophomore Dajaia Weaver said rope bridge is one of her favorite events.

“I love rope bridge, and that was like one of our best events too,” she said.

The fourth event, cross country rescue, involves cadets wearing 35-pound backpacks and carrying a 120-pound stretcher of a simulated casualty through a mile of obstacles. The final event, the gauntlet, includes carrying backpacks and 40-pound ammo crates through a mile of obstacles through the woods, including an 8-foot wall, culvert tunnels and more.

“I am just as proud as I can be of these cadets,” Farlow said. They truly went through blood, sweat and tears over the last four months of Raider season, and I look forward to the season resuming in the spring when we go at it again.”

Farlow said while the events are grueling, he enjoys seeing the cadets learn to persevere through whatever lies in front of them

“The kids learn to push themselves beyond what they think they can do,” he said. “They learn to push through that and continue on and when you learn that skill in one area of your life, it can go into other areas of your life.”

Senior Tyron Rice has been a JROTC Raider all four years of high school and said he enjoys the physical challenges and making friends that motivate him.

“The reason why I still keep on doing this, I feel like we’ve made friends in here and we’ve made irreplaceable bonds,” he said. “Also the instructors are pretty cool as well.”

Senior and team captain Tayler Garriott joined fellow senior I’Yela Hornaday in being part of the national championship varsity team all four years of competition.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of sweat, a lot of hours, a lot of running, but overall I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had doing a sport. I like running, so that helps too, because a lot of everything we do is running.”

Garriott said a highlight from this season was winning first place in the individual cross country run at Hobart’s Raider competition for the second year in a row. He said he also enjoys the camaraderie of being a part of the team.

This was Weaver’s first year competing at the national championship.

“Going to nationals really scared me because we’re like competing against a lot of really, really good schools and it just like it was something new for me,” she said. “So it was new, but it was also fun and I’m glad we actually got fifth in the nation.”

She said she joined Raiders last year after her friends encouraged her that while Raiders was different than other sports, it would really work her.

“So my freshman year I joined and it did, it killed me, but something inside me just kept telling me to keep going, keep going, you can do this, so I did,” she said.

Farlow said while fall season is over, the JROTC program continues to be busy throughout the year, including rifle marksmanship and drill and color guard seasons starting up now. He said he is thankful to Marion High School and the community for being so supportive of the program throughout the years.

“Lots of people have donated money and resources to help us take the kids to these various championships, because it’s expensive to do so,” he said. “It’s easy when you’ve got great kids and great support to do great things.”